Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vaccination Drive Used to Catch Osama

Public health officials are furious after learning that the CIA used a fake vaccination drive to seek out Osama bin Laden. The Guardian reported this week that a senior Pakistani doctor was recruited to set up a vaccination program in Abbottabad. The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been arrested and charged with working for a foreign intelligence agency, although it appears that he may not have been aware that the CIA was behind the plot.

The CIA wanted to be certain that the world's most wanted terrorist was really hiding in the compound that they had targeted. They had DNA from his sister, who had died in Boston in 2010 and they believed that DNA from children living there might confirm bin Laden's presence. A nurse entered, but apparently failed to obtain any DNA.

Public health officials fear that the news will fuel suspicions in Pakistan that vaccination campaigns are just Western plots to spread disease and sterility.

"To take children who are in need of vaccines to prevent some disease that could kill them and use that as a front for something else is unconscionable," says Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "The end doesn't always justify the means."

And Médecins Sans Frontières was outraged: "It is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance. Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services." ~ ScienceInsider, July 13

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