Nigeria’s Kano state was among the three states that were given priority by the Nigerian government when it received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021. However, it was met with high hesitancy among largely conservative residents of the state. This is partly due to religious misinformation and the ugly vaccine experience that has pitched Kano people against any vaccine for years—including the Polio vaccine which led to a low vaccination rate in the state.
The narrative is changing as the Islamic clerics who were against the vaccination exercise from the onset are now convincing their members to take their jabs and as a result, the vaccination rate is now on the rise as Kano is among the top three states in Nigeria that have achieved herd immunity.
In Kano, where 98% of residents are Muslims, Islamic clerics are highly respected and revered. They strongly influence public opinions and, in many cases, government policies. For instance, the drive to eradicate polio in the early 2000s was stalled by widespread fears, fanned by religious leaders that vaccines were intentionally contaminated with anti-fertility agents and HIV to decimate the Muslim population.
However, despite the initial opposition, the contribution of some Islamic scholars in the state has helped to increase awareness and stem misinformation and public distrust. Today, Kano has the highest number of citizens that have been vaccinated in Nigeria.
The state has vaccinated over 70 percent of its targeted residents against the COVID-19 virus. According to the data published by National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) about 7.8 million people in the state have been fully vaccinated against the virus and over 3 million are partially vaccinated.