Have you ever thought why there has been vaccine hesitancy in Pakistan? Why some Pakistanis still refuse to take polio vaccine and now coronavirus vaccine? This distrust doesn’t come out of nowhere. What is the history? Lets have a brief review.
After 9/11, for the purpose of capturing Al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden, CIA used fake hepatitis B immunization campaign in Abbotabad. It was a failed attempt to obtain the DNA of Osama bin Laden’s family from his suspected residence prior to his assassination in 2011. DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present. This “project” was started in a poorer part of town to make it look more authentic.
Dr shakil Afridi, health official incharge of KPK was selected by CIA to lead the campaign. In March 2012, He was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 33 years in prison.
When the news of this scheme broke, it added proof to existing conspiracy theories about vaccinations. These vaccination programs were labelled as “western spying programs”. As a consequence, many local leaders began urging people not to vaccinate their kids, banning vaccinations and even FATWAS were issued against vaccination.
In 2013, in response to pressure from leaders in public health and science, the CIA promised to stop using vaccination programs to gather intelligence.
This disguising of an intelligence-gathering effort as a humanitarian public health service has resulted in serious collateral consequences like suspicion, anger and fear of getting vaccinated that affected the public health community.
After the concerns of WHO regarding polio spread in Pakistan, in 2014, The foreign office said: “A fake campaign of vaccination was conducted in Pakistan in which the UN agencies were also used.”
But the WHO has denied this, saying it was “deeply concerned by the circulation of an incorrect statement that was made during a press conference”.
Pakistan is not the only country with a history of medicalized violence. In the US, there is a long history of Black and brown people being used for medical experimentation too.
Sources: BBC, The guardian, vox news, npr.
Here is how dawn news reported it in 2011