Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio in areas bordering Afghanistan may have been setback following the conviction of a doctor who allegedly ran a fake vaccine program to locate al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Dr Shakil Afridi was convicted of treason and sentenced on the 23rd May for his role in a vaccination drive that was reportedly engineered by the CIA in order to collect DNA samples and aid their hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Medecins Sans Frontieres, the international medical aid charity, had then warned that the CIA’s alleged use of a vaccination program as cover to spy on bin Laden threatened immunization work around the world.
The conviction of Afridi has exacerbation concerns in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that vaccination is a conspiracy to make their children infertile. Dr Rekhanullah Khan, a polio officer in the FATA, is reported as stating:
“The problem of refusing vaccination is not new but Afridi’s fake vaccination campaign has proved to be a setback to our efforts to popularize immunization,”
The FATA are also using the vaccination crisis to negotiate with central government requesting clean water, paved roads and electricity before vaccination.
In 2011, Pakistan emerged as the worst polio-infected country in the world with 198 cases and this year will be no different if urgent measures for mass immunization are not taken, according to WHO officials.