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Could bin Laden hunt lead to more polio?
July 13th, 2011
01:55 PM ET

Could bin Laden hunt lead to more polio?

Leaders of the Global Campaign to Eradicate Polio are concerned that a reported CIA-led ruse could slow down an ambitious anti-polio push in Pakistan. The World Health Organization and Pakistan’s government renewed a massive vaccination effort in January, in part with a new $50 million pledge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

This week, The Guardian and the New York Times reported that health workers went door-to-door in the town where Osama bin Laden was holed up, offering vaccinations against Hepatitis B.

Reportedly, the visits were part of a coordinated effort with the CIA, to try to collect DNA from bin Laden relatives to aid in his eventual identification. CIA officials would not comment, but residents of the Abbottabad neighborhood where bin Laden was found told CNN that two women did visit homes, offering free vaccinations. Christy Feig, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization, said it was not part of a WHO campaign.  Michal Fishman, a spokeswoman for the Gates Foundation,  tells CNN that injectable hepatitis vaccinations would never be given door-to-door, unlike oral polio drops.

Speaking on behalf of the Global Polio Eradication Campaign, Carol Pandak of Rotary International told CNN, “We are concerned about the possible effect of the report on children's immunity in the country [Pakistan]. Health interventions are by nature apolitical, and vaccinations protect children all over the world against diseases that can kill and maim for life.  We hope that this story does not prevent children in Pakistan being vaccinated against polio and other diseases.”

Rashee Jooma, former spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Health, was more critical, telling CNN: “This was an irresponsible act by the CIA. This will harm the cause.”  Pakistan recently abolished the national health agency, replacing it with provincial organizations.

Other health officials contacted by CNN said they did not want to talk about the story, for fear of giving it more attention. CNN’s Reza Sayah, based in Islamabad, says it has not gotten much coverage inside Pakistan.

Vaccination campaigns often have to overcome local suspicion of outsiders, but some experienced vaccinators downplayed the likely harm. “Frankly, I doubt the CIA caper would have any negative effects on the polio program,” said D.A. Henderson, who led the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox and is now  the distinguished scholar at the Center for Biosecurity at UPMC. “My sense is that the real problem in Pakistan is, and has been, that outside the Army, management and organization of health problems has been weak.”

Pakistan is one of four countries in which polio remains firmly established, along with India, Afghanistan and Nigeria.  Several other countries saw cases last year.  Whether  the CIA vaccination story has an impact will soon be put to the test.  Health workers are scheduled to go door to door in Abbottabad, starting Monday.


soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Yakobi.

    All insurgents should die from polio.

    July 13, 2011 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AJ

      Don't be obtuse. If we allow Polio to gain a larger foothold again, it will be threatening populations across the globe, including this nation eventually.

      July 13, 2011 at 16:13 | Report abuse |
  2. Jackson

    Not a problem until it was made into a news story.

    July 13, 2011 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Whizerd

      Absolutely! And you can bet the Gates Foundation was in on it too..but you wont see that in a news story. Don't get me wrong though..i think it was an excellent idea to do it. They would have damn sure done it to us, given the chance(if they havent already)The only thing is..now that they got Bin Laden, and others, why is there still US soldiers being killed over there?
      Because it's too big of a Business to stop now, thats why.
      I'm glad that the children are getting the shots though.
      However, there are lots of things right here in the US we could concentrate our health efforts on instead. I suppose all of that is a whole different issue though......

      July 13, 2011 at 20:40 | Report abuse |
  3. svann

    Candygram!

    July 13, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. ART

    Harm the cause , what ever, a whole lot less terrorist if they die of polio. Its a win win situation if you ask me.

    July 13, 2011 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • viracochawk

      usually people dont die because of polio most likely you will lose movility in your legs. ignorante!!!

      July 13, 2011 at 23:53 | Report abuse |
  5. Larry051967

    Polio is making a comeback in America thanks to illegal immigrants. These human incubators are bringing dozens of diseases here to our shores, most that were eradicated decades ago in America. Some of these diseases are not like the old version but are multiple drug resistant, now. And our government refuses to protect us. Our politicians ambitions trump our safety, every time the two clash.

    July 13, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Seraphim0

      Because the government can wave a mystical shield and protect everyone from disease. What planet do you live on?

      And if you're talking about illegals- this administration has more border patrol agents on the ground and more deportations than the previous... it's not like they're sitting on their thumbs and refusing to try to stem the tide.

      July 13, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
    • Dolce1203

      Actually, polio has not made a comeback in the United States. Measles has made a comeback, and it is not due to illegal immigrants but good ol' American citizens that travel outside the US.

      July 13, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • N

      Really? Where have you gotten this information from?

      It's certainly news to me... and I run in public health circles, so someone must be pulling the wool over all of our eyes. I've not heard of any polio outbreaks in the US since a very small one in 2005 in an Amish community, which I don't think is a hotbed of illegal immigrants.

      July 13, 2011 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • A scientist

      This comment is just nonsense. The last imported case caused by wild poliovirus into the United States was reported in 1993 (this info is available on the CDC website). Polio is not endemic in Mexico (or anywhere in North or South America) - the major source of illegal immigrants.

      July 13, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
    • Whizerd

      If thats the case, then its not illegal immigrants, or immigrants, or aleins or any of that.. it's our own Govt doing 'tests".

      July 13, 2011 at 20:41 | Report abuse |
  6. shinibaby

    Its wonderful to know that people are still out there walking door to door to help eradicate polio world wide. Its a difficult job that can expose a person to many dangers in villages where the vaccination is not wanted and children hide to avoid simple mouth drops that could save their lives. I'm praying that one day polio will be completely eradicated from the world. If I could help and travel door to door I would. If I had any medical education at all I would be on the front lines helping.

    July 13, 2011 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. DianeD

    The Global Campaign to Eradicate Polio has to worry about a Polio vaccine slow down or halt in Pakistan ONLY if Pakistan is guilty of still harboring any more Al-Queda terrorists or any other members of terrorist goups! If the Pakistani government slows down the vaccination effort....then they are still hiding terrorists! Nothing to hide.....nothing to fear!

    July 13, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Joe citizen abroad

    The Global Campaign to Eradicate Polio should get their heads out of their collective posteriors.

    July 13, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. wizzard

    I really doubt the WHO or GPEC will have problems with their records. Somehow I really doubt that a CIA plan to gather DNA under the guise of a polio vaccination would be reported to anyone as an actual vaccination of those they visited. I think the worst that can happen is some poor paki will question why they are getting another vaccination.

    July 14, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. killallthewhiteman

    This is the stupidest non-story to come out of the wake of the OBL killing. People will find any reason to hate America, even our own hypocritical citizens. So just let them hate, Polio is not going anywhere.

    July 14, 2011 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. PandoraDoggl

    It looks like the issue here is that someone friggin' blabbed about the program. I dunno what it is with these people and not knowing how to keep their dang mouths shut.

    July 14, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. babael

    Oh, didn’t you know about Gates and vaccines? I read this in someone or other’s blogs about a month ago. Sure hope it isn't true: “Bill Gates, quoted in the 2010 TED [Technology, Entertainment & Design] conference (one of the largest toxic waste polluters on the planet) donated countless millions to develop what he calls “new vaccines to reduce world population,” And routinely meets with other billionaires in secret to discuss ways of lowering global population. What more sinister correlation between the USA’s present highest numbers of administered infant vaccines and highest infant mortality rates than Gates’ promise: “If we do a really great job on new vaccines for reproductive health services, we will soon lower world population by 10-15%.” But that’s just a start toward his targeted 80% reduction. Gates followed this up in the 2010 Aspen Colorado Ideas Festival by advocating so-called “death panels” – ending health care for elderly patients and leaving them to die. The early 21st century is witnessing one of the darkest modes of power that the cabal of these secret globalists has used to control world population and resources including the adulteration of the planet’s staple crops.” Just imagine if this is true.....

    July 14, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Robbi

    deez foos shud be lookin fo dis foo in da norf "pole yo"

    July 14, 2011 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mizzy G

    Only time will tell

    July 14, 2011 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply

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