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Ban on polio vaccine lifted in Nigeria state

KANO, Nigeria -- The governor of a heavily Muslim state in Nigeria revoked an 11-month ban on polio vaccinations yesterday, stressing he was ''satisfied" the UN-regulated vaccines were safe despite persistent rumors they are part of an American plot to make girls infertile.

Governor Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano state called for polio vaccinations to begin as soon as possible, a prospect that UN health workers have welcomed to stem a growing outbreak of the potentially crippling disease.

The announcement ended more than a month of speculation on the vaccine ban. Despite UN reports last month that immunizations were to begin soon, Kano officials had followed Shekarau's orders not to comment on the ban.

Since Kano suspended vaccinations last August, the ban has set back a 15-year global campaign to eliminate the disease by 2005, according to UN health officials.

The ban's reversal came after a team of officials from Kano said it was ''satisfied with the process of production" of polio vaccines by Biopharma, an Indonesian company from which Shekarau said Kano would be procuring future supplies.

Kano has become the global epicenter of the disease, which has mushroomed to neighboring countries where polio was previously thought to have been eradicated. Nigeria has reported more than 250 polio cases this year, compared with 56 in the same period in 2003.

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