(By Chris K. Amadi) -Before midday Tuesday, private and public nursery, junior and senior secondary schools in Port Harcourt and other local government areas in Rivers State were compelled to shut down as agitated parents demanded to take their children and wards home over rumoured forced vaccination.
Before the unfortunate development however, there had been rumours that officials of the Nigerian Army were going about infecting children with the Monkey Pox, an emergent infection which is being tackled in Bayelsa and Rivers States.
While non of the concerned parents could tell the source of the rumour on Tuesday, they wanted their children home all the same, and do not want to have anything to did with the alleged immunization. Parents stormed schools in panic and violently banged at school gates demanding for their children even before noon.
Meanwhile, our findings showed that, the equally confused school authorities had no choice but to release the students to their parents.
When the attention of the Nigerian Army division in Port Harcourt was drawn to the rumour, they denied sending officials out for any immunisation. Dr. Tamunosisi Gogo Jaja, Rivers State Education Commissioner, who went round to see things for himself found that the claim was false.
No school head confirmed either to the commissioner or to newsmen that a soldier or group of soldiers visited to carry out any kind of immunization. It was just a rumour that some say was manufactured outside the state, and sold via telephone calls to people living and doing business in Rivers State for reasons best known to the sponsors.
Barr. Emma Okah, Commissioner for Information and Communications also issued a statement saying the state is not aware of the rumoured immunization. He urged the citizens to report any suspicious case to the police.
The Health Commissioner, Prof. Princewill Chikere also said that no school vaccination program has been authorised by the Rivers State Government.