In this post on her blog, “The Garrett Update,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), examines the potential implications of a fake hepatitis vaccine campaign carried out by the CIA in Pakistan last year in an attempt to gather DNA from Osama bin Laden’s family. She writes that “the fake vaccine effort has now put at least 300,000 children in Afghanistan and Pakistan in danger of contracting polio, led multiple imams and Taliban leaders to declare vaccines are CIA plots, and [on Tuesday] prompted what appears to have been an assassination attempt against a World Health Organization immunization convoy, leaving two individuals alive, but shot” (7/17).
Pakistan Polio Immunization Campaign Might Not Reach 240,000 Children Because Of Militant Leaders' Bans On Vaccine
A national polio vaccination campaign set to begin this week in Pakistan might not reach 240,000 children in the northwest because of a Taliban ban on the inoculations, Agence France-Presse reports. Local militant leaders “have banned polio vaccinations in the northwestern tribal region of Waziristan to protest against U.S. drone attacks” and “have condemned the immunization campaign, which is slated to begin on Monday, as a cover for espionage,” the news agency writes (7/14). The social affairs secretary for the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas “says local officials and non-governmental organizations are working with tribal elders and clerics to help convince the Taliban and other militant groups to allow the immunization campaign to take place in North and South Waziristan,” according to VOA News’ “Breaking News” blog (7/13). TIME reports that the leaders have said the ban on vaccinations “would not be lifted until the drone strikes stop” (Baker, 7/15).
New York Times Examines How CIA's Decision To Use Vaccination Team Affecting Polio Eradication Efforts
The New York Times examines how the CIA’s 2011 decision to use a vaccination team to collect DNA samples and information from residents of Osama bin Laden’s compound damaged efforts to vaccinate children for polio in Pakistan. The effects of the campaign, which has prompted local leaders to ban polio vaccination teams, will not be fully known “until the summer spike of polio cases tapers off in the fall,” the newspaper writes and reviews the history of the case as well as polio in the region. Elias Durry, the WHO’s polio coordinator for Pakistan, “and other leaders of the global war on polio say they have recovered from worse setbacks,” and many experts are confident that Pakistan eventually will eliminate polio, according to the New York Times (McNeil, 7/9).
“Ten years after Europe was declared polio-free, the world stands tantalizingly close to eradicating the disease for good,” but “[t]he world’s chances of achieving this once unthinkable goal of ending polio are being jeopardized by a funding gap of $945 million,” Sir Liam Donaldson, chair of the Independent Monitoring Board of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, writes in this EurActiv.com opinion piece. “This shortfall means vaccination campaigns for 2012 will face cancellations in 33 countries, leaving 94 million children under-immunized,” Donaldson notes, and continues, “This is not just unacceptable: it is also highly damaging and will make our efforts to eradicate polio more expensive and challenging in years to come.”
“A senior Taliban commander has effectively banned polio eradication in one of the most troubled areas of the Pakistan frontier in an effort to force the U.S. to end drone strikes,” the Guardian reports. “Leaflets distributed in South Waziristan on behalf of Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (Fata), accused health workers who administer anti-polio drops of being U.S. spies” and “questioned the sincerity of international efforts to tackle the highly infectious disease,” the newspaper adds.
Polio Eradication Efforts Threatened By Funding Shortfall, Vaccination Resistance In Some Countries, Experts Say
Marking the 10th anniversary since Europe was declared polio-free, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative on Wednesday released a report (.pdf) saying there is “a unique window of opportunity to stamp out polio for good,” with the number of reported cases at historical lows, but a funding shortfall of about $1 million is threatening eradication progress, Reuters reports. Polio “remains endemic in three countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria — after India in January became the latest country to become polio-free,” the news agency notes. IMB Chair Liam Donaldson “said the global financial crisis coupled with growing needs for polio funding had led to a shortfall of $945 million out of a total 2012-13 eradication program budget of $2 billion” and that 33 countries would have to cancel their vaccination programs, leaving 94 million children unprotected, according to Reuters (Kelland, 6/20).
In this NDTV opinion piece, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reflects on his recent trip to India, writing, “During my recent visit, I had a chance to see the latest progress on things that matter a lot to us: on eradicating polio and curtailing the spread of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, for example.” He continues, “And I saw how India is emerging as a model and increasingly a catalyst for improvement in other developing countries,” adding, “The current situation in India is quite hopeful.”
“Zimbabwe embarked on a massive immunization campaign against measles and polio on Monday, targeting about two million children under the age of five,” VOA News reports. “Health and Child Welfare Minister Henry Madzorera launched the program in Harare, administering vaccines to a number of children and doses of vitamin A supplements,” the news service writes, noting, “Statistics show that at least 100 children die of largely preventable diseases in the country every day, and officials say the week-long vaccination program is meant to roll back the worrying mortality rate.”
“A Pakistani militant group threatened action on Saturday against anyone conducting polio vaccinations in the region where it is based, saying the health care drive was a cover for U.S. spies,” Reuters reports, adding, “The group, based in North Waziristan and led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said it had banned vaccinations for as long as U.S. drone aircraft continued to make missile strikes in Pakistan” (Mujtaba, 6/16). “The statement by Hafiz Gul Bahadur is an obstacle to efforts to beat polio in Pakistan, one of only three nations where the virus is endemic,” the Associated Press writes (6/17).
Noting that polio is endemic in only Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria, and the WHO recently declared the disease a “programmatic emergency” to “galvanize work” in those three countries, a Washington Post editorial states, “A renewed campaign [against the disease] will be costly.” The editorial notes, “The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, set up in 1988 by the WHO, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Rotary International, says that it needs an additional $945 million for a total budget of $2.19 billion this year and next.”