Polio vaccine genocide in Uganda
Update: Letter from Kihura Nkuba October 20th, 2003.
A Transcript of a talk given by Kihura Nkuba at
the National Vaccine Information Center'sThird
International Public Conference on Vaccination
November 7-9, 2002 - Arlington, Virginia,
aired on C-Span 2 on November 7, 2002.
Contact Kihura Nkuba through
Barbara Loe Fisher at
The National Vaccine Information Center
421-E Church Street
Vienna, VA 22180
INTRODUCTION by Barbara L. Fisher:
We're now going to look at oral polio vaccination conducted in Africa. Our next speaker, known in the pan-African world as Kihura Nkuba, which means "one who handcuffs lightning and puts thunder in jail", is founder of Greater African Radio and president of the East African World Broadcasters Association, and director of the Pan-African Center for Strategic and International Studies. Several years ago he began hearing from villagers who were being subjected to repeated forced live oral polio vaccinations despite reports of injuries and death among the children. On his radio program he began to speak out and questioned the safety of giving the children - especially children with HIV - so many live oral polio vaccinations, rather than giving them the safer "killed" polio vaccine used in the U.S. and Canada. Since that time, he tells me, he has been persecuted by the government, World Health Organization and UNICEF, and his radio station has been driven into bankruptcy. Kihura is appearing here at great personal and professional risk to tell his story. It is my great honor and privilege to introduce you to the recipient of the National Vaccine Information Center's humanitarian award - my good friend and colleague, Kihura Nkuba.
KIHURA NKUBA: I am indeed very honored to be here and to have been invited by Barbara Fisher and Cathy Wiliams to come and tell my story, which is also my people's story. Normally, when they ask you to come and speak, you sit there and think of what's the first word that you'd say, but in listening to my brother Sunny Bates and Karen Forschner and Stanley Kopps (sp?) I was [unintelligible] and I was saying 'My God, if they can do this here in one of the most powerful countries on Earth, what will happen to me - what will happen to us ? If they can do that in the United States, then you know when it comes to other countries like Africa and Asia and South America, our chances are pretty slim.
I did not start off as being a campaigner for other peoples' rights and polio. I am a pan-Africanist, and by that I mean I believe in equality of thought and practices that are rooted in the best interests of African people. I spent most of my time in England teaching film and television, and also running pan- African conferences for so many African people that live in the Diaspora to mobilize them to go and do some work in Africa. And by then eventually, I remember it was at a conference in Manchester and somebody said to me 'You keep telling us about helping Africa, and however much you feel it's about swimming, one day you have to remove your clothes and jump into the water. Why don't you go to Africa yourself ?'
And at that time my wife and I decided to borrow money and raise some, and go and set up a radio station. And we thought of a radio station because I believe that just one person with a microphone and a radio can teach more people than a professor in a good university. So I started Great African Radio in 1999 and, like most radio stations that you find in Africa, we decided to broadcast in African languages and record African music and talk about issues that concern people, like growing food and storing grain and eating fruit and drinking clean water; and sanitation, and all the other issues that were really not (trained) into most of the urban stations that broadcast music.
And on this program I ran a program that we call African metaphysics every night, and some people call it the hour of truth. It's a one and a half hour program where I talk about literally anything I wish. And it became so popular that people started organizing in theatres, in assembly halls, in churches and mosques, and they paid to have me go and speak there. So it was in one of these lectures I gave in one small town - and normally before I go, because there is so much interest in my lectures, there is like minders and people who do crowd control, and they hide me somewhere, and they introduce me last minute so that people don't see me before they have paid.
Now, when I was in one of those hideouts, I sat with a preacher who started telling me a story of 1997 during the National Immunization Days. In 1996 the government of Uganda introduced what they call National Immunization Days. For those of you who don't know Uganda, Uganda is in East Africa. It is at the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon just where River Nile begins. And according to paleontology, archeology, molecular biology, it is one of the countries that is said to be the source of humanity because now I think everybody agrees that humanity, from the stage of Australopithecine to Homosapiens, started in Africa - according to UNESCO anyway. So - and it is governed as a democracy - quote, unquote - not that it's not a democracy like you've got here. It's just that I'm always very skeptical when I hear the word 'democracy' mentioned. So they have a parliament. They have a president who is elected by all those that can vote and then they have a parliament. And in the northern part of Uganda just in one district there is some trouble by people who think they should have been president and not they guy who is in charge.
So I was told by this preacher that when the government introduced the National Immunization Days in 1997, most of the children after vaccination started dying. The preacher told me that they had so much death that his cassock, that he wears to go and conduct the burial ceremony, got old. He said "I buried the children and my cassock got old."
In the same room there was one mother who had four children, and she hid one and took three other children for vaccination, and three children died and that one survived. Now when I went to do my presentation and I asked most of the people who were there - about two, three thousand people - each person had the same story.
Now, in 1992 I believed that vaccination was a good thing. I didn't know very much about vaccination like most people, and I thought the doctors must really know what they are doing. So I thought vaccination is a very good thing. But I had an argument with my wife who didn't want my son to receive vaccinations. So I started reading about polio, and I think I knew at that time that there were difficulties with the oral polio vaccine, which I called 'polio Sabin'. So in this lecture I said "I hope it's not the 'polio Sabin'". And that was just the one remark I made. I said "I hope it's not 'polio Sabin'"
Now all my lectures are broadcast every evening, so I'd go before a crowd -I'd give a lecture and they'd broadcast it on radio at night. And the following day the government sent people to me to ask me about my remark -you know, what I meant about "I hope they're not using the 'polio Sabin'."
I didn't know that that was the polio vaccination they were using in the country, because I think I had read from literature from the National Vaccine Information Center - the small consumer - I had a small book, the consumer guide, which must be one of the most well-read books in Uganda because everybody wanted a copy of it, including the health officials from the government.
So they came to me and asked me - they said
"What did you mean by 'you hope it's not polio Sabin'?" I said "Well, I hope
it's not polio Sabin because, according to the information I have, it was
stopped in America in 1996 because it was a cause of polio in America." And
they said "Really ? There's no polio in America." I said "Yeah ?" The
health officials told me they weren't vaccinating in America, and I said
"No, that's not true. I know they vaccinate in America." They said "No,
because they eliminated wild polio over there." I said "What do you mean wild
polio ?" They said "Well, there's two types of polio. One is wild and one
is domestic." So I said "O.K. Of these two polios, which one are you trying
to eliminate in this country ?" They said "We're trying to eliminate the
wild polio so you can have the domestic polio because the domestic polio can
be controlled." And I said "Why don't you leave the wild polio in the bush
? Why do you have to bring it - why do you have to go and fight wild polio
to introduce it in the house ? At least if it is out there then you know
at least it's not threatening inside the house ?"
But anyway, soon after that, articles started appearing in the newspapers about myself, and they claimed that I was not really interested in my people - in African people, and that to demonstrate that, I had married a white wife - that I had all my children locked up in England, and they had been vaccinated, and I had stopped them coming to Africa because if they came to Africa they'd probably pick up some disease. Now all this was unfortunate for them because at the time my wife was in Africa and my children; and with all due respect, my wife was not white, but they tried to show that really I hated (African) people so much that I couldn't even marry somebody from them.
Now then at that time, the parliament of Uganda, the Minister of Information, the minister in charge of (the) presidency, started writing the attorney general to close the radio station because I was broadcasting anti-government messages. And they sent me civil intelligence to come and interrogate me. At that time they were saying it wasn't really polio they were interested in. It was that I had anti- government views and I was plotting to overthrow the government. Fortunately the intelligence officer who came to interrogate me proved to be very intelligent. When I told him that really the polio (vaccine) they were using in Uganda was discontinued in America because it was the sole cause of polio. And according to the information I had, there was really no polio in Uganda. There had been no polio. I grew up to be twenty five. I didn't see anybody with polio. I started seeing polio when I went to the cities where polio vaccination had taken place. And the more they challenged me, the more I started digging about polio, you know, to educate myself and stand ready to go to court or to be charged. And then what the intelligence officer recommended to government was (that they) bring health officials to debate me at the radio station so that if I was telling lies, then they should come and expose me before my very audience. To this the Minister of Health, who was backed by UNICEF, the United States Agency for International Development and the World Health Organization, said that really it shouldn't be like this. I shouldn't debate polio because I'm not a scientist. Now I have been a broadcaster for more than fourteen years, and all I was saying was not that people should not go for vaccination, but that if they are to go for vaccination, if there is a vaccine that is deemed to be safe, then that's what they should use. And then by a stroke of good luck somebody brought me an insert that comes with the polio vaccine, and it was from Pasteur-Mer???? a French company that manufactures the polio vaccine, and that was the one that was used in 1997 when children started dying in large numbers. And when I looked at the contra-indications it stated that inactivated polio vaccine and not oral polio vaccine should be used in situations where families had HIV - where there was a history of HIV in the family. And when I got this information I was really shocked because since 1984 Uganda has had a very difficult HIV and AIDS problem. In fact it says that if a child is inadvertently given the oral polio vaccine, that that child should be quarantined for four to seven weeks because oral polio vaccine is "live" and they keep shedding it between that period, and they could contaminate other people. So I was saying here is the manufacturer who is writing for anybody who could read English that please do not give this oral polio vaccine to population that have HIV and here is the Ministry of Health which, in its own wisdom, says this has to be used here.
So, armed with this insert from the manufacturer, I decided to install wireless internet in the radio station and also to see what other people were saying. At that time one of the main advisors to the government of Uganda was the Centers for Disease Control - one of the most respected agencies in the world. So I tried to see what the Centers for Disease Control was saying about this oral polio vaccine, which should not be used according to the manufacturer, and the Centers for Disease Control was even more clear than the manufacturer. In fact, this is what it says. It says that persons who have congenitally acquired immune deficiency disease -e.g. combined immune deficiency, blah, blah - should not be given oral polio vaccine because of their substantially increased risk for vaccine associated disease. Now, they continue: they say "inactivated polio vaccine and not oral polio vaccine should be used to vaccinate immunodeficient persons and their household contacts." So I said if this is the Centers for Disease Control which is advising the government of Uganda, and it is saying we should not use oral polio vaccine, and here is the manufacturer saying oral polio vaccine should not be used, now why should oral polio vaccine be used here ?
And then at the time, because of the heightened tension that the Minister of Health was bringing to bear on the radio station, then other people started throwing their own questions. And they went like this : In Africa polio does not kill anybody and they say it's very rare to catch. It's really very rare to get paralytic polio. They say it's in very rare circumstances, so what is it that is killing people in Africa ? Malaria. Every five seconds a child is dying of malaria in Africa. Now to get the dose of life-saving anti-malaria is about $5 but there is no government to give anti-malaria. When somebody gets malaria, if they have no money they even die.
So the question I was asking and many people were asking
was 'If you really want to help children, why begin with a disease that they
don't have ? (applause) Why not look for something that is killing them and
save them from what is killing them ?' And then (inaudible) .............
'you know what, I like you very much. I save your children from this
killer disease. Now there are no other diseases apart from this rare polio,
so let's go and fight that as well.' But you don't begin with the
rarest disease and spend all the government's meagre resources fighting
polio, which is not a threat to most people, and then ignore something that
is killing them in large numbers like malaria, like AIDS, like cholera,
issues to do with sanitation, stunted growth - all the main things that
matter to people the government was not fighting. So what they decided to do
was to appeal to the president and say... and the president says to them
'What you could do is go and take him to court and if the court decides that
he's giving false information, then charge him with sedition which carries
and death sentence or a life sentence.' So when they told me this I said
'Well, if I am to die' - I think there is an American poet called McCain, and
he had a poem which was "If I Am To Die". So if I was to die, I did not
want to take anybody with me, but I really have to give people a run for
their money. So I decided to use the experience that I had gained in
broadcasting and research for over 14 years to research everything that I
could find out about polio to prepare myself for the ultimate challenge if I
was to go to court.
I discovered that really the whole concept of vaccination is like getting a disease, putting it in an undiseased person to cure a disease that person hasn't got. It's like if you have an army and it's fighting an enemy, and then you bring the enemy into the barracks just to see if the soldiers can defend themselves should an enemy surprise them. I mean, you don't do such things in a war. And then I started asking myself - humanity has lived in Africa for 5.5 million years from the stage of Australopithecines to Homo sapiens. Polio vaccination in Uganda started in 1963. So if we were all to die of polio like the Minister of Health was telling us, we would have died by 1963 and it would have been 'case closed'. There would have been nobody to vaccinate. So the fact that we have survived 5.5 million years without polio vaccination shows that people can survive without it. (applause) And if really somebody is that desperate for the vaccine, then let's look for a vaccine that - you know - somebody says 'This is safer than the other.' Because the manufacturer who should know more than the Minister of Health that we have, or the World Health Organization, says 'Do not use this in this country.'
Now, when they wrote to the attorney general and the attorney general asked me to come and make my representation, and I went to the attorney general and gave him my views of what I thought of inactivated polio vaccine - and basically my case was simple. This oral polio vaccine was discontinued in America. Why ? Because it's a cause of polio, and you're telling me that the minister of health here wants to (use it) to stop polio. You don't stop polio by bringing something that causes polio, and giving it to people. You stop polio by bringing something that will prevent it. That was my first argument. The seond argument was - the manufacturer says don't use it, and since the minister of health and myself are not manufacturers, we have to wait for that time when the manufacturer says 'Use it'. And the attorney general says 'O.K. I don't think he can be prosecuted.' And he wrote to the minister of health and the minister of information and said 'I think you have a weak case. If you took this person to court you'd probably lose.' So what they decided to do then was to use what they call the broadcast council, and the broadcast council is the one that gives licenses for broad- casters. So you couldn't broadcast without the broadcast council.
I have to say that at that time every government minister, every member of parliament was talking about the radio station as how we are misleading the public - giving false information - really they were calling me a child killer and everything, and most of my advertisers completely fled, because in Uganda 80% of the advertisers is the government anyway. And the government was not going to advertise with the radio station that was giving it that trouble. So the broadcast council then wrote to me saying that I was giving information that was deemed to be anti-government and anti-people, and they were going to withdraw the license. In fact, to back their words up, the minister of information came to the council hall where the radio is based with soldiers and the police and local counselors and district medical officers, and they called me and he had a pen in his hand and he said 'This is what I want you to do. I want you to go on radio tonight on your popular program and tell people that polio Sabin is safe -that they can have it and that you support it. If you don't do this I am going to sign, recommending that your radio station be closed, and by tomorrow you won't be on air. I looked at the handsome minister if information in the face and I said "Go to heaven and stay there" because I was not going to do such a thing. (applause) I did not believe that oral polio vaccine was safe and I was not going to tell anybody to mislead the public that it was.
So when he left I expected the radio station to be closed, and what I did is I went off air. I stopped broadcasting my program voluntarily. So I stopped the broadcasting. So what happened was really a revolution because people waited for my program to come, and what they did - they decided to come to the radio station and mount a vigil - and before long I had over ten thousand people at the radio station - taxi drivers threatening to block the road - I had riots in almost every town demanding that my program come back on air. And at that time information had gone (out) that the government was really raining down on me because of oral polio vaccine, and that's what upset people. They said 'What's in polio (vaccine) that you really want to give to us ? When we want clothes, you can't give us clothes. When we want education you can't give us education. When our children die you can't give us coffins or even come and assist us. Why are you forcing polio (vaccine) on us ? If it's so good why can't we see the benefit of it ?" You know because it was their children dying. And then they started narrating all these stories..... At the main hospital in Mbarara during that month of 1977 more than 600 children had died following polio vaccination. 600 children ! So even some of the timid medical practitioners who were initially afraid to come out, started coming out giving information and saying 'Oh, we knew this oral polio vaccine was trouble because as soon as the child receives it, they get a temperature and their health goes downhill and there is nothing that you could do.' So the mothers said they would not take their children for oral polio vaccination. And this information was going back to the government at the capitol. So what the government decided to do was to say let's send a team of experts to come and debate me at the radio (station) on my program. I have to tell you that on that day in the month of July - I think July 22nd - some date like that - all the town sold out of radios and mobile phones because they were ready to ring inside the radio station and tell the doctors that really it should be their choice to decide what is given to their children, and it shouldn't be the choice of the doctors (applause); and that whether they agreed with me or not, that both sides should present their information to the parents so that the parents can make a choice. Now I thought that these doctors were going to come with thousands of books and evidence and references, and I spent two weeks preparing myself. I ordered books from Australia and Britain, and Barbara sent me some literature, and I didn't sleep for almost a week. I was reading day and night trying to educate myself about immunity - how the body's immunity works. I was trying to educate myself about viruses jumping species and immuno-suppressive treatments, and I learned about - for example - the Marburg virus which appeared in Germany in 1967 [unintelligible] from a [unintelligible] laboratory that they were developing oral polio vaccine, and actually the monkeys had come from Uganda. So the monkey viruses had jumped from - had been - some of the viruses that lie dormant in some of these species for a long time - if you take these viruses and put them in the human body, they could do anything. And one of the things they did was to give Marburg, which is a cousin to ebola. In fact, after reading that information I predicted [what year ? N.S.] that there would be ebola in Uganda because of these vaccinations, and there WAS ebola in Uganda a year after ! So they started saying I was a prophet !
So when they came, here am I in the studio thinking 'God ! These are the real experts. How am I going to handle them ? I'm just a broadcaster -somebody who has questions that any right-thinking member of the society should ask.' And when they came they were more scared than I was, and they started saying 'You know, we really apologize because... one of the leaders of the team of the district medical officer said 'You know what ? I have never read even a medical journal since I left medical school. We have no internet. I cannot afford to buy new books. How would I know what is safe or what is not ? All I know is that the World Health Organization says it's safe. UNICEF says it's safe, and all these other agencies say it's safe. So if it is safe then we must use it.' and then my first question was 'Well, why didn't the World Health Organization say it was safe for America to use ? Doesn't the jurisdiction of UNICEF extend to America. If they stopped it in America why should we use it here ?' And people were saying to them 'O.K. - you are the physicians. You studied the same things as the physicians who manufactured this vaccine.' And they said 'Yeah. You know, when you are a physician you don't want to say No, I didn't study that. I'm sorry - I went to school but I didn't study what you studied.' They said 'Yeah, we did. We studied exactly the same thing.' And I said 'O.K. Why do we have to import the vaccine anyway ? Why can't we manufacture the vaccine here if you know what goes in it ?' And they said 'Oh, that's a problem. We don't have factories.' And then people were ringing in to the studio asking - 'We had our own way of ensuring our childrens' immunity. You know, when a child was born there was an assortment of herbs that were collected from the wild, and then they were boiled, and every day the child would bathe in these herbs for six months, and a little bit of the herbs would be given to the child to drink.' And it was in this debate that most of the physicians admitted that that method was as effective as the immunization that was being carried out. So people were saying 'Well, if we have this method that had proved very good for us all this time, why are you giving us oral polio ? And why are you not fighting the diseases that affect us ? And most significantly : where are all these so-called paralyzed people - all our people that are physically challenged - that you said existed in villages ?'
And at that time we had marshalled the people that had contracted polio after immunization, and they were in the studio with us. In that debate most of the people that had come to debate us ran out of the studio, and they could not answer the questions from the people. And the national newspapers splashed these headlines so that even in other parts of the country where my radio station was not reaching started picking up the story. The World Health Organization got worried. UNICEF got worried. UNICEF representatives came to the station to appeal to me, saying 'Well, we know you have a case but you are giving it to the wrong audience. I mean these people don't understand what you are saying. If you are talking to people in cities - you know, people in villages - they cannot understand the argument. Polio is good. O.K. it may have some difficulties, but why don't you come and join us ? Then we will support you and give you more advertising.' And... I didn't think it was an advertising issue. I thought it was a moral issue at the time.
But just for them to prove their case, one time I'm leaving Mbarara, which is where my radio station was based, and I'm going to Kampala - 250 miles away - and in my driving mirror I see two pickup trucks following me. And they must have followed me for about 100 miles. I noticed it because the two people that were driving were white, and there aren't a lot of white people in that region. So when I saw them following me I stopped - they slow down and overtake me and when I went back on the road I see them again. I said I thought I was in trouble. So I reached the next town, turned off my engine and waited for about two hours, and I thought I must have lost them. So I jumped on the road again. I am driving full speed - about maybe 120 MPH because I am late. I was going to get my son from the airport and I had already lost two hours trying to avoid people who were following me, and Lo and behold one of the pickup trucks is in my driving mirror again. And I am going downhill and this guy comes and over- takes me, gets in front of me and brakes. He had a big pickup truck and behind there were bull bars (?) And the other pickup that is behind me is also very close to my bumper. So I tried to avoid by going off on the right side of the road. In Uganda they drive on the left - and he also goes on the right side of the road. When I attempt to come back onto the road my vehicle starts overturning and it must have overturned about 15 times. The vehicle was totally mashed up, and it was near a small town. Everybody thought nobody could escape from that car. I thought I had died. I was still breathing. I could hear myself breathing, but I thought I had died. I looked at the mashed car and the smashed windows, and I thought 'Maybe heaven looks this ugly.' So eventually people came and they cut the door, and I waited to see... because when it overturned it knocked somebody who was on a bicycle, but the person didn't die. And it knocked bannana trees . It was horrible. But I came out. When I stepped out everybody started running. They thought it was a ghost walking - some kind of dead man walking. So one of the people recognized me, and they took me to hospital, and they found I had just sustained very minor injuries.
So I knew that they were going to make their point and they were going to make it very well. But at that time I think I had passed the door of no return, and I could not take a step backwards. So the minister of health knew that if they lost the debate it would be very difficult for them. Because in speaking to Barbara I also understand that here you follow a certain regime - like you give certain doses in certain years, and after that it's finished. In Uganda or Kenya or Tanzania it's not like that. You have what they call routine where your children keep getting all these vaccines. And then they have National Immunization Days. It doesn't care whether you go through the immunization or whether you were immunized last year. You come this year and they still give you the same thing. So for polio, for measles there is no end. It's that complicated.
So what happened then was the government then decided to say 'Well, those experts that came weren't really experts. They were some kind of experts but they are not experts. And these are the experts that are now going to come in the final debate on radio.' And I said 'O.K. The experts can come because my questions are still the same.' So they brought now a team of other experts which was supposed to be the final team of experts, and when they came this was my first question : 'Tell us - you say that this oral polio virus is attenuated, which means weakened. What does that mean ?' And the guy says 'Well, it's not really a virus. It's the jacket of a virus.' 'It's a live virus.' 'It's an attenuated live virus.' And they started saying 'No, it's not a live virus. It's the jacket of a virus.' Then another one said 'No no no' And this is live on radio so the experts from the ministry of health are contradicting themselves in a live debate listened to by more than 15 million people who for a long time have trusted doctors as really people who should know everything about vaccines. And one of them said 'No, it's not a jacket. You can't say it's a jacket. It's just harmless.' O.K. well if it's harmless, and if the virus goes into the body, it can do several things. It can lie dormant; it can die, or it can become potent.
And then people were ringing and saying 'What would you call a virus in the local language ?' And one of the experts called it a small animal, and that's where problems started because then another caller would ring in and say 'Well, if it's a small animal, what does it eat ? And if you don't give it food and it gets really hungry, what would happen ? Won't it attack the body's immune system ?' Now you may find this hilarious and laugh, but really those are deep philosophical questions that scientists grapple with. When a virus gets in your body it can do several things. It can die. It can sleep, or it can become potent or virulent. And if that happens, then you have a problem. So this expert debate didn't do the work, because what people were interested in was to hear why it is possible that they cannot get the killed virus. And the answer was that it would be too expensive -it would be too expensive to give the killed virus to the population.
And then the people said 'O.K. if it's too expensive, we don't want the cheap one. We think at least we are worth five dollars or ten dollars, or something like this. So if you can't bring the inoculated polio virus, we are not going to have the oral polio.' And that's what they did. But the government was ready for them - not really the government - the minister of health, the World Health Organization and the UNICEF. They mobilized the army, and the police and moved from house to house. They had asked the local authorities to do a list of people who had children, so they moved from house to house grabbing children at gunpoint and vaccinating them.
Now those that knew - as soon as the army got into the village - the rest of the people who had children would run into the bush, and they stayed there for a week. And there is the story of this child who was met on the road, and they grabbed him and asked him whether he was immunized, and he said 'Yes'. He lied to them - said 'Yes' - He was running away, but he said 'Yes' and they said 'Well, we still have to immunize you anyway. So they got the (dose). They put it in his mouth and the child spit it out - first time. They put it a second time (spit) - third (spit) - fourth (spit) and then they hit the child and then the child ran away unvaccinated. So it became a very difficult exercise, and the government put all the blame on me. They said it must have been me who had learned all these hypno-therapeutic techniques and had (majored ?) in psycho-cranial therapies, and I was an agent of all these organizations abroad that really do not believe in traditional medicine; and I had hypno- tized the population so that they were not able to respond to government messages on vaccination - something that was totally good for them. Now the thing was -those that went for vaccination came immediately to report reactions, and a good many of them lost their children. Those that did not go for vaccination did not have the same reaction. So they would be ringing in to the radio station and saying 'Well, I vaccinated my child and this is what happened.' I know this is what was happening even before we started, but they had no way of expressing themselves. They had no means. So at this stage most people really got convinced that there must be a relationship between having a history of HIV... I have to tell you HIV is very big in Uganda - very big in East Africa. I was born in a family of eleven, but from 1987 up to today I have lost eight members of my family through HIV.
So when the manufacturer says 'Do not give this vaccine to families that have a history of HIV' there are no families in Uganda that have no history of HIV. Everybody knows somebody who has died or has lost an uncle or a brother's wife or his children through HIV. And it's that relationship that people were able to put together saying 'Maybe really the oral polio vaccine, when given to population that has HIV - when live vaccine is given to a population that has HIV, it produces that reaction.'
But for me, up to today, that is still the situation. The oral polio vaccine in Uganda, northern Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo and part of Kenya has become a hotly contested debate. Thousands of people, during the National Immunization Days in the months of July and September, go into the bush and stay there for weeks. The army and the police move house to house looking for children to vaccinate. At the same time, things that kill children like malaria, cholera, issues of stunted growth, sanitation, are completely untackled.
Now - last year I came to Washington to give a lecture to the Voice of America, and I decided to ring the Centers for Disease Control. Normally when I travel I record my travel and I do a travel program. So I tell people what I'm seeing because I know the majority of my people have no chance of travelling - so I describe the situation to them. And I rand the Centers for Disease Control and they have a line of experts that you can ask different questions. And I said 'I am living in America and I want to go to Uganda, and my children have not received oral polio vaccination. And they said 'No, they can't receive oral polio vaccination in this country.' I said 'Why not ?' and they said 'Well, you can get polio from oral polio vaccination.' And I said 'Is this the Centers for Disease Control ?' and they said 'Yes'. 'Are you sure you are not the Centers for Disease Uncontrol ?' They said 'No, we are the Centers for Disease Control - the real McCoy.' So I said 'What if I have a history of HIV and I receive oral polio ?' They said 'That would be really pretty dangerous. It could be a death sentence.' (And I said) can I have your name ?' 'No, you can't have my name. You can have a reference number.' I said 'O.K.' but I recorded this, and when I went back I played it on radio. (applause) I said 'Well, this is not me now. You can't arrest me. You have to arrest the Centers for Disease Control, because, I mean, it's them doing the talking. It's not me. I have just given them space on the radio !'
So the minister of health said 'O.K. this is what we're going to do. We're going to invite you and you'll come and sit with all the experts from World Health Organi- zation, from UNICEF and the minister of health, and we'll do a deal.' So what I did - I went to the website of the Centers for Disease Control. I photocopied a big document on vaccine reactions, and I took it with me. So I sat before the minister of health and I said 'Well, before we can do any deal, I just want to see what our very good friends from the Centers for Disease Control say about vaccine reactions - particularly polio.' And the minister gave it to the head of public health, and the head of public health looks at this document and says 'This is not a genuine CDC document. This is from the internet.' And I said 'So what ? It's from the internet - the CDC on the internet. This is the 21st Century !' He said 'No, it's not.' And I said 'O.K. At the bottom there is a number, and it says you can ring this number. Why don't we ring the Centers for Disease Control ? Here is a mobile phone' And he said 'No, we can't ring them. We wouldn't know if it was the CDC answering.' So what do we do ? They said 'We'll send the document to the embassy and ask the embassy to verify if it's a CDC document.' 'Oh' I said - 'Well, you have an expert from the CDC in Kampala. Why don't you call that expert to verify ?' He said 'No, he's sick. He's not available for verification.' So I said 'O.K. I will do a deal with you only after you verify that this is a genuine CDC document. We'll give each other 24 hours. You go and do your verification, and then after that I'll come and we can deal.' 24 hours. No reaction. One week - one month - I am still waiting.
But in the meantime I had two radio stations. One of them is now closed. I employed over 60 people. I am 6 months in arrears. I can't afford to pay them. As I speak I have not a single advertiser on my radio station that has an audience of more than 50 million. My radio program, when it goes on air - even buses that carry people stop to listen to my program for one and a half hours. And I have already told you that people even pay to hear me speak. But I have taken a bank loan from England. My house is up for grabs, including all my books and my videos and everything - just for asking simple questions as 'Why don't you fight a disease that kills people instead of one that has a theoretical risk of attacking them ? Why don't you deal with issues that people want you to deal with, and maybe after you have dealt with that, then you can deal with oral polio vaccine ? Why use a vaccine that was discontinued in America - which is a technological nation where people should know - and you use it here ? Why at least can't you say to people "Pay for the killed vaccine" so that they get the vaccine that, according to the manufacturer, would be less harmful ?'
That is my story. I am not opposed to vaccination. I have not gone out to cause trouble for anybody. It's just I felt as a broadcaster my job is to ask questions that my audiences would have asked had they been in the same position that I was, or had the opportunity to meet the people that matter. So - and that's what I did. Instead of giving me appropriate answers, I was victimized. One government minister said the experts from the ministry of health had carried out a study and they had found me mad ! And I said 'Well, if you say I am mad, I think you could say it's mutually assured destruction, and definitely this poison would have mutually assured us of destruction.' So in my own madness it seems I was the only person that could stand in front of millions of people to ask legitimate questions.
I know one thing - that people who have lost their children as a result of taking oral polio vaccine will not be going for immunization unless that policy is changed. I also know - I think if you go to the website of the World Health Organization you'll find my name - you know they depict me as this anti-polio campaigner and whatever, which I am not - But I also know that the World Health Organization, UNICEF and all these agencies are really looking for what they call victory - to vaccinate the last child. And they are saying that right now the person who stands in front of them is myself.
For more than six months I have not been on radio broadcasting because I was involved in a conflict in eastern Congo - in the Democratic Republic of Congo - and it was the center that I ran, called the Pan-African Center for Strategic and International Studies that began the peace initiative about a year ago that led to different peace accords that have been signed to bring peace in this country. And one of the peace conferences was chaired by myself for more than six months. Now I also know that the population is not going to accept these oral polio vaccinations unless they change to killed vaccine. But for the government and for the minister of health, and all the other agencies, they will continue to look at me as the enemy. I have been out of radio for this period of time, but still there is very little people going for vaccination, and the government is pouring in more money -millions and millions of dollars of meagre resources that a small country like Uganda cannot afford. And most of that is really going into misinformation - a campaign against me. That's my story. Thank you very much.
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