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InterAction Sends Letter To CIA Head Protesting Use Of Vaccination Plot To Find Bin Laden In Pakistan

“An alliance of 200 U.S. aid groups has written to the head of the CIA to protest against its use of a doctor to help track Osama bin Laden, linking the agency’s ploy to the polio crisis in Pakistan,” the Guardian reports, noting Pakistan recorded the highest number of polio cases in the world last year. The CIA used a “fake vaccination scheme in the town of Abbottabad … in order to gain entry to the house where it was suspected that the al-Qaida chief was living, and extract DNA samples from his family members,” the newspaper writes. But the plan “provided seeming proof for a widely held belief in Pakistan, fuelled by religious extremists, that polio drops are a western conspiracy to sterilize the population,” according to the Guardian.

Insecurity Threatening Success Of West, Central African Mass Polio Vaccination Campaign

Instability and insecurity in some West and Central African nations are threatening the success of a 20-country polio vaccination campaign, which aims to immunize 111.1 million children against the disease, IRIN reports. Ongoing insurgent attacks threaten the campaign in Nigeria, the region’s only polio-endemic country and home to 57.7 million of the children targeted, the news service notes. Parts of Mali, Niger, and Chad also pose security problems for health care workers trying to access children in remote or disputed areas, according to IRIN. “Human error and weak health systems also play an important role in sub-optimal immunization reach,” the news service writes, noting so far, “only Ghana, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Togo have achieved the required 90 percent coverage, according to UNICEF” (3/23).

Pakistan’s Draft Bill That Would Punish Parents For Not Vaccinating Children ‘Misses The Mark’

“Eradicating polio and improving the health of millions of children in Pakistan depend quite heavily on assuring that all children have access to life-saving vaccines,” but “[t]he most recent policy prescription from the Pakistani parliament to improve immunization coverage, however, misses the mark, and badly,” Orin Levine, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center, writes in this Huffington Post “World” blog post. “A draft bill being finalized in the Pakistani parliament would require compulsory vaccination of all children, and would introduce tough penalties — including fines and imprisonment — for parents of unvaccinated children,” Levine says. However, supply issues may prevent some parents from being able to vaccinate children, and the threat of punishment may force some to falsify immunization records, he notes.

U.N.-Backed Campaign Aims To Vaccinate 111M Children In 20 Countries Against Polio Over 4 Days

“Some 111.1 million children below the age of five are to be vaccinated against polio in a synchronized campaign covering 20 countries in West and Central Africa starting on Friday,” the WHO and UNICEF said in a joint statement on Wednesday, PANA reports (3/21). The campaign, which will last for four days, “is intended to serve as a massive boost in efforts to eradicate the disease, and will involve national health ministries and U.N. agencies, as well as tens of thousands of volunteers who will go from door-to-door immunizing children,” the U.N. News Centre writes (3/21).

India’s Success Against Polio Is Promising Step In Defeating Disease Worldwide

“That India is free of wild polio today is a testament to the commitment of the Indian government,” which “invested more than $1 billion over the last decade and collaborated with community leaders, health workers, businesses, and parents,” as well as governments, non-governmental organizations, and multilateral agencies, to fight the disease, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius writes in a Foreign Affairs opinion piece. “The victory over the disease in India has saved millions of lives from disability and death. And although the world must remain vigilant against polio to prevent its resurgence, India’s success will gradually allow the nation to focus resources and experience on [other] diseases and initiatives,” she states.

VOA Examines Constitutional Debate In Nigeria Over Government’s Right To Require Polio Vaccination

“A constitutional debate is under way in Nigeria over whether the government can prosecute parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated against polio, or if it has the power to force parents to have their children vaccinated against any communicable disease,” VOA News reports. “The debate comes on the heels of a resolution by the government of Nigeria’s northern Kano state to prosecute any parent who refuses to have their children receive the oral vaccine against the highly contagious disease,” the news service notes.

WHO Director-General In Pakistan To Monitor Flood Relief, Polio Vaccinations

WHO will continue to support efforts to boost polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said recently during talks with Pakistani health officials, the Associated Press of Pakistan reports. Chan was in the country to review health relief operations in Pakistan’s flood-affected areas.

Also In Global Health News: Congo Polio Outbreak; Aid Groups Ordered Closed In Afghanistan; Subsidized Malaria Drugs In Kenya; Gates Grand Challenges; Contraception In The Philippines

Polio Outbreak In Congo Leads To Emergency Immunization Effort “Eighty-five deaths and 184 cases of paralysis were reported in the port city of Pointe Noire, the epicenter of the Republic of Congo’s first polio outbreak in a decade, the World Health Organization said in a statement yesterday,” Bloomberg reports. “The…

Leaders Speak At Partnership for Maternal, Newborn And Child Health Conference

Education for women is the most important factor for positively influencing the health of women and children, Indian President Pratibha Patil said on Saturday at a meeting in New Delhi of The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), IANS/Sify News reports. “Education is a powerful driver of health. The relationship between poverty, lack of education and limited access to health services, is well recognised,” Patil said at the start of the two-day conference (11/13).

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