Panic and confusion enveloped Ondo State on Tuesday following rumors that school children were being injected with deadly vaccines intended to provide immunity to the monkeypox virus.
The rumor spread throughout the state, leading many parents to take their children away from their schools.
SaharaReporters learned that the rumor, which started around Ore and spread to Emure, Owo Local Government Area, had it that uniformed men were administering a deadly vaccination to children in Ondo State schools.
Rumors alleging that ten children died after receiving the vaccination caused massive panic.
It was observed that as early as 10 a.m. on Tuesday, most schools in the cities of Owo, Ikare, Ogbese, Akoko, Ore, Ifon, Oba Ile, Odoani, and Akure had to sent their pupils home to join their parents while others shut their gates.
Our correspondent visited Fiwasaye Girls Grammar School, Aquinas College, St. Louis Girls Grammar School, Akure Secondary Commercial, the Elemulatu Primary School and Ijo Mimo Secondary School in Akure, among others.
Private schools in the state capital were also closed down in order to safeguard pupils from unforeseen mishaps and risks as their parents and guardians were warned of unfounded panicking.
SaharaReporters spoke to some concerned parents about the vaccine panic in confidence.
“We heard from a radio station – in fact, it was from one of the Yoruba programs – that some armed soldiers were visiting the schools to inject our children with these deadly vaccines,” one parent said.
The Ondo State government said that such rumors are completely false and baseless and should therefore be disregarded.
Yemi Olowolabi, the state Commissioner for Information and Orientation, stated this in a press statement issued in Akure and obtained by SaharaReporters.
Mr. Olowolabi urged the people of Ondo State to ignore the rumors and go about their normal lives.
“The attention of the Ondo State government has been drawn to a rumor in circulation that a forced vaccination exercise is being conducted around schools in the state, with panicking parents withdrawing their wards from schools.
“The state government wishes to inform the parents, students, teachers, school authorities and the general public that the rumor is baseless, unfounded and should be disregarded. Real time investigation across the state has shown that none of such things exist in Ondo State.
“The Ondo State government, therefore, advises the public, schools, students, and teachers to go about their normal activities. Should there be any strange occurrence, the appropriate quarters should be informed immediately,” the statement read.
Wahab Adegbenro, the Commissioner of Health in Ondo State state, further confirmed that there are no immunization exercises occurring in the state.
Dr. Adegbenro told our correspondent that immunizations would only be administered at health facilities, not schools.
“It is a rumor, and none of our health officers are carrying out any vaccinations in the cities,” he added.
Speaking with SaharaReporters, Major Ojo Adenegan, the spokesman of the 32 Artillery Brigade of the Nigerian Army, said the rumor was cooked up by people to cause unnecessary panic in the state.
Mr. Adenegan denied that military officers in Ondo state were being used to inject children with any vaccines.
“There is no ongoing medical outreach in Ondo State. The information is the handiwork of mischief makers and should be treated as such,” he said.