Islamic group slams anti-polio vaccine fatwas

Some areas of Muslim-majority countries still remain affected by the disease, which is easily preventable through a vaccine

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An Islamic group met Wednesday to quash fatwas (religious edicts) ruling that polio vaccines cause infertility, Al Arabiya News Channel reported

“The whole world rejects such fatwas that polio vaccines cause infertility,” Abbas Chouman, a senior official at Cairo’s al-Azhar University - regarded as the highest seat of learning of Sunni Islam - told Al Arabiya News Channel during the two-day meeting by the Islamic Advisory Group (IAG) in the Saudi city of Jeddah.



The strict fatwas banning vaccines against polio were observed in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), polio cases have decreased by over 99 percent since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases in more than 125 endemic countries then, to 223 reported cases in 2012.

However, in parts of Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan, the disease remains widespread.

In late 2013, WHO and UNICEF launched a polio vaccination campaign for 23 million children in the Middle East after dozens of cases were discovered in conflict-ridden Syria.

The strain of the disease detected in Syria is related to a strain that originated in Pakistan and has also been found in sewage samples in Egypt, Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

No cure

Polio, which has no cure, mainly affects children under five years of age. However, a polio vaccine administered multiple times can prevent a child from contracting the disease for life.

Ayad Madani, an IAG member, said the group is committed to making countries polio-free.

“We renewed our commitment to get rid of polio on an international level,” Madani, who is also the Secretary General of the 57-member Organization of Islamic cooperation (OIC), said.

“We are also determined to offer the grantees needed [to curb the disease] including the provision of polio vaccine,” he added.

Alaa al-Alwan, WHO’s eastern Mediterranean director, said the international agency is working with governments, local organizations and religious scholars in countries affected by polio to get rid of the disease.

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