How We Brought Polio Back To Pakistan

by Brendan James

In 2011, as part of its plan to catch bin Laden, the CIA launched fake vaccine campaign. Ben Richmond reports on the blowback:

A local warlord banned vaccinations after Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi was linked to the CIA operation to find Osama bin Laden. Under the guise of giving out a Hepatitis B vaccination, the doctor collected DNA samples from children, looking for bin Laden’s family members. A link was established between the CIA and vaccinations and starting on June 16, 2012, tribal leaders banned the vaccination campaign. The Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur said vaccinations would be banned until the CIA stopped its drone campaign in North Waziristan, according to UPI.

And the ban has been enforced. In the 14 months since it was lowered, at least 22 people involved in vaccination efforts have been killed and another 14 have been injured. As a result, an estimated 300,000 children in North and South Waziristan were forbidden from vaccinations, and the UN was forced to suspend polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. There have been 24 cases of polio in Pakistan so far this year, and three cases of paralysis, but as the New York Times pointed out, “even one case shows that the virus is in the area and could spread.”

Health officials have long warned the strategy was a mistake:

The medical community is understandably pissed at the CIA for compromising them and making their difficult work even harder. … An opinion piece in Scientific American from May 2 outlined, in more detail and stronger language, why the CIA shouldn’t have used a sham-vaccination ruse. “Few mourn [bin Laden] the man responsible for the slaughter of many thousands of innocent people worldwide over the years,” the article said. “But the operation that led to his death may yet kill hundreds of thousands more.”