Phony CIA immunisation drive: Vaccination drives under threat

Published: July 14, 2011
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World Health Organisation concerned about the effect of the story on children’s immunity in the country.

World Health Organisation concerned about the effect of the story on children’s immunity in the country.

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistani officials and international health organisations expressed concern that an unconfirmed report of a phony CIA vaccination program meant to obtain DNA evidence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden could harm legitimate immunisation programs in the country, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

This fear is especially pronounced because of the rising problem of polio. Pakistan was the only country to record an increase in cases of the crippling disease last year and now has the highest incidence of polio in the world.

Earlier this week, the British Guardian newspaper reported that the CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor to run a Hepatitis B vaccination drive in the northwest town of Abbottabad in March in an attempt to get DNA from Bin Laden’s children and confirm the al Qaeda chief was holed up there. The story cited unnamed Pakistani and US officials.

The CIA declined comment on the report when contacted by The Associated Press.  Health officials held meetings about the alleged CIA scheme on Tuesday and expressed concern that it could have a negative impact on immunisation programs in other areas of the northwest.

Michael O’Brien, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan, expressed concern that the reported CIA programme could make it more difficult for medical officials in other parts of the country to administer critical vaccines.

“Anything that compromises the perception and impartiality of medical personnel undermines the activities of medical personnel everywhere, especially in places where access to health care is badly needed and security conditions for health care workers are already difficult,” O’Brien said.

World Health Organiation director general Margaret Chan complained last year that health workers administering polio vaccines could only reach two in every three children in the tribal region because of the security situation.

The WHO expressed concern on Wednesday about the alleged CIA vaccination program, saying the organisation is “concerned about the effect of the report on children’s immunity in the country.” “Health interventions are by nature apolitical,” said WHO spokesperson Hayatee Hasan. “We hope that this story does not prevent children in Pakistan being vaccinated against polio, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Jul 14, 2011 - 9:07AM

    Creating drama to this level is only shooting yourselves in the foot. The vaccines themselves that were given are of no real concern. They may have had a motive other than simply giving vaccines to those in need but, in that part of the plan, they did as advertised. If you want to create panic leading to more disease for sympathy, go right ahead but don’t blame anyone but yourselves. It’s not the report that is doing the most harm. It’s the authority’s reactions to the report that does it. Hold your conspiracy tongue just this once and tell it how it is instead of helping to instigate paranoia.

    Furthermore, the fact Pakistan didn’t keep its mouth shut about it, knowing full well there was no threat to the people who were vaccinated can be seen as nothing more than instigating something or plain stupid. Instead of concentrating on the fact that there was a CIA operation and the reason behind it, you go and cause a needless panic. Just because there was a hidden motive doesn’t mean one side of it was intended to cause harm. It may have been even seen as a bonus. They helped people while they did it. It’s nothing to brag about but it’s nothing to freak out about either.

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  • Husein Ali Khan
    Jul 14, 2011 - 9:53AM

    and where were our intelligence agencies?

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  • Asif
    Jul 14, 2011 - 12:18PM

    But who would explain the apolitical role of medical officials to the vast majority of illiterates in Pakistan. Those who already love to brand such public health interventions as a “conspiracy”.

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  • Yousaf
    Jul 14, 2011 - 1:44PM

    This is what i said earlier, people are not going to believe in the Doctors… ek machli saaray tallab ko gandda kar deti hai.

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  • Akbar
    Jul 14, 2011 - 2:04PM

    Was that doctor Maj Amir Aziz from AMC who was living close by and later picked up by ISI?

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