Posted by Abdul Alim
Asia Times Online; By Ashfaq Yusufzai - Pakistan’s efforts to contain polio in areas bordering Afghanistan may have been setback following the conviction of a doctor who allegedly ran a fake vaccine program to locate al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
Dr Shakil Afridi, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on May 23 on charges of treason, is said to have helped the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States track down bin Laden by collecting DNA samples from selected residents in the cantonment town of Abbottabad. Bin Laden was killed in a US raid on his secret residence in Abbottabad in May 2011. Afridi was arrested by Pakistani authorities three weeks later, leading to friction between Islamabad and Washington.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, the international medical aid charity, had then warned that the CIA’s alleged use of a vaccinationprogram as cover to spy on bin Laden threatened immunization work around the world.
Afridi’s role appears to have exacerbated suspicions among people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that polio vaccinations are part of a US conspiracy to render their children infertile.
“The problem of refusing vaccination is not new but Afridi’s fake vaccination campaign has proved to be a setback to our efforts to popularize immunization,” Dr Rekhanullah Khan, a polio officer in the FATA, told IPS.
This year, Pakistan has already recorded 22 cases of polio with 10 of them from the FATA, a territory consisting of seven tribal agencies.