Public schools in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital were thrown into chaos, Wednesday when rumours filtered in that monkeypox vaccines were being forcefully administered on pupils by unknown persons.
The rumour, which had caused confusion in a few other states in recent days has been debunked by the army authorities several times.
The federal ministry of health had also on Wednesday issued a rebuttal denying the availability of such a vaccine.
The Defence headquarters specifically denied the allegation in a statement signed by its spokesman, John Enenche.
But these denials appeared to have been dismissed by residents in Maiduguri as hundreds of school children bolted out of their classes on Wednesday.
Some parents equally forced their way into school premises to pick their children and wards.
However, none of the children or parents interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES said they saw the people administering the vaccines. Despite this, the rumour quickly spread to many parts of the city.
“We were told that some pupils slumped and died after they injected them with the vaccine in Gwange area”, a 12-year-old schoolgirl, Lam said.
At Sanda Kyarimi primary school, parents reportedly engaged in fisticuffs with staff unwilling to release the kids.
“They (parents) had to break the gate and force the kids out”, a member of Civilian-JTF told PREMIUM TIMES.
“It was really chaotic there as the parents began to break doors and throw stones at the teachers whom they accused of plotting to inject their kids with monkeypox causing vaccines.”
The executive chairman of the State Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Shettima Kullima, told journalists in an interview that about 37 public schools closed before official closing hours due to the rumour.
He said the board is monitoring the situation and would speak later on development.
The minister of health, Isaac Adewole said 74 cases have been recorded in 11 states.
Meanwhile, commissioner of education in the state, Musa Inuwa Kubo, said no school in the state would ”be closed down over any kind of false rumour.”
The commissioner, who said this at a press conference in Maiduguri added that the ministry of education was not aware of any vaccination exercise being carried out.
He also appealed for calm.
“As far as we in the ministry of education is concerned, the ministry of health or any health agency has not contacted us on any inoculation exercise. And nobody came to us to obtain permission to enter these schools for either vaccination or inoculation as the case may be.
“Our schools will remain open; we cannot close the schools because of some unfounded rumours”, he said.
He said the rumour was the work of mischief purveyors.
At a separate press conference, officials at the state’s ministry of health also dismissed the rumour.
“We heard the breaking news and we mobilised the directors in charge of disease control and emergency, who confirmed that such ‘injectable vaccines’ were not going on in any schools”, the permanent secretary of the ministry, Mustapha Allau said.
“We have ongoing vaccinations for polio and cholera which are restricted to mostly IDP camps and outskirts locations”, he added.
Also, the Executive Director, Borno State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, PHCDA, Sule Mele said all the immunization exercises in Borno state are coordinated at the state level and ”the ones that are ongoing now are oral vaccination.”
“We have heard the rumour in other parts of the country even before we started the just concluded polio vaccination. And we have mobilised our community leaders and religious clerics who spoke about it in the mosques and churches calling on the public not to panic,” he said.
The representative of the Shehu of Borno, Zanna Boguma, said the Thursday rumour came at a time the PHCDA was holding a meeting ahead of the forthcoming measles vaccination.
“It was a baseless and mischievous rumour aimed at destabilising the peace that we have in the state”, the representative said.
“We call on parents to always rely on constituted authority anytime such rumours break out and to report such persons peddling the malicious rumours to appropriate authorities,” he added.