The CIA has chosen to end vaccination programs after violent outbursts were directed at federal agents in Pakistan. American-led public health efforts in the Middle East have been met with widespread suspicion after the agency commissioned fake vaccination drives to help discern the whereabouts of bin Laden.
Although this tactic ultimately failed to assist the manhunt in any fashion, Pakistanis have publicly rebuked the CIA’s continued involvement with public health initiatives in the country. The doctor who collected DNA from this ruse operation was indicted and has been sentenced to 33 years in a Pakistan prison.
The controversy surrounding CIA vaccinations in Pakistan is compounded by the persistent prevalence of polio in the country. Sixty-six cases of the debilitating virus have been identified since the beginning of 2014. This marks a disconcerting increase from last year, when only six new cases were reported around this time.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has publicly welcomed the end of CIA vaccinations in Pakistan, insisting that all health initiatives are compromised when the U.S. engages in these types of missions. WHO hopes greater transparency and legitimacy from Western NGOs will forge a lasting trust between local populations and foreign doctors.
“This reassurance is coming at the right time and we sincerely hope this will contribute toward reaching the children,” Zubair Mufti of WHO told BBC. “Public health programs should only be focused toward providing health to the people and not collateral things.”
Even the White House conceded the fake vaccination drives did more harm than good.
“While political and security agendas may by necessity induce collateral damage, we as a society set boundaries on these damages, and we believe this sham vaccination campaign exceeded those damages.”
Taliban leaders have also applauded this decision. The terrorist organization banned all associated community members, including women and children, from taking part in any vaccination program two years ago. World health leaders like Mufti are hopeful the prohibition will be lifted soon after this announcement, as he believes this would be a vital first step toward eradicating polio in the Middle East.
However, other substantial obstacles complicate the mission to achieve universal vaccination. Despite hundreds of studies disproving any correlation between vaccinations and reduced mental capacity, many citizens of developing and developed nations alike continue to believe these shots lead to mental deficiencies later in life. In addition, it may prove especially difficult to convince Middle Eastern communities of the legitimacy of current vaccination platforms after the CIA admitted to the botched program to track down bin Laden.
Yet, this decision appears to be an important first step toward eradicating the acute, debilitating virus that can result in paralysis. Although the world is a ways away from achieving universal vaccination and eradicating polio altogether, Pakistan is certainly a great place to start.
– Sam Preston