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Declining vaccination rates in Pakistan linked to CIA's misleading inoculation drive of 2011

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Islamabad | May 14, 2021 5:44:34 PM IST
Declining vaccination rates in Pakistan have been linked to operations undertaken by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2011 apparently under the guise of a vaccination programme to try and locate Osama Bin Laden.

A new paper in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press, indicated that distrust generated by a 2011 CIA-led vaccination campaign ruse designed to catch Osama Bin Laden resulted in a significant vaccination rate decline in Pakistan, reported MedicalXpress.

The CIA using a local doctor planned an immunization plan in Pakistan to obtain DNA samples of children living in a compound in Abbottabad where American authorities suspected Bin Laden was hiding in order to obtain proof of Bin Laden's location (because the presence of close relatives would be a likely indication of Bin Laden's presence).

Without consent from the Pakistani health authorities, the doctor began to administer hepatitis B vaccines to children in Abbottabad. The British daily newspaper published an article revealing the vaccine project shortly after a United States military special operations unit killed Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, reported MedicalXpress.

Taliban used this news to discredit formal medicine and vaccines. They issued several religious edicts linking vaccination campaigns to CIA espionage activities and later used violent action against vaccination workers.

Using data from the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement on children born between January 2010 and July 2012, researchers have investigated the effects of the disclosure of this vaccination ruse on the extent to which children in Pakistan received doses of the polio, DPT, or measles vaccine.

Their estimates indicated that the vaccination rate declined between 23 per cent and 39 per cent in districts with higher levels of electoral support for an alliance of parties espousing political terrorism relative to districts with lower levels of electoral support for such groups.

The researchers' investigation also revealed that the decline in girls' vaccination rates is larger than the decline in the vaccination rate of boys, reported MedicalXpress.

"The empirical evidence highlights that events which cast doubt on the integrity of health workers or vaccines can have severe consequences for the acceptance of health products such as vaccines," said Andreas Stegmann, one of the paper's authors.

"This seems particularly relevant today as public acceptance of the new vaccines against COVID-19 is crucial to address the pandemic." (ANI)

 
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