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A new campaign to vaccinate more than 80 million children against polio in 23 African states will begin next week. In the Nigerian state of Kano last week, President Olusegun Obasanjo said Africa must bear the responsibility for building a polio-free continent.
Opposition to the vaccine in Kano earlier this year is believed to be responsible for the resurgence and spread of polio in the region. Muslim clerics claimed that the vaccine was part of a western plot to make Muslim women infertile — a suggestion strongly denied by the WHO. In the past 18 months, the virus has spread to 12 polio-free countries.The UN says the campaign will be the biggest cross-border public health drive ever. After the October vaccinations, there will be a further push in November and throughout 2005. The UN hopes the campaign will help salvage its goal to eradicate polio by 2005.