To end attacks on health workers, CIA abandons use of vaccine programs for spying purposes
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/20/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
The CIA has announced that it will now never use international vaccine programs as covert spying operations. Zubair Mufti of the World Health Organization says that the U.S. move "is coming at the right time."
Polio in Pakistan has been spreading fast since the Taliban banned the vaccination campaign two years ago.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "By publicizing this policy, our objective is to dispel one canard that militant groups have used as justification for cowardly attacks against vaccination providers," CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said in a statement to the BBC.
The policy has ended, citing concerns for the safety of health workers, the White House has said. A White House aide said the CIA stopped such practices in August.
The CIA had used a fake vaccine program to try to find Osama Bin Laden before U.S. Special Forces killed him in 2011. The policy change arrives after a wave of deadly attacks by militants on polio vaccination workers in Pakistan.
Polio there has been spreading fast since the Taliban banned the vaccination campaign two years ago. The news is expected to be welcomed in Pakistan.
Professor Ibrahim Khan, an intermediary for the Taliban, told the BBC the militants wanted assurances that the vaccination program wasn't being used for other purposes.
Khan says he's hopeful the Taliban will lift the ban on the vaccine but he added it was also contingent on the success of peace negotiations with the government.
Sixty-six cases of polio have been declared in Pakistan since January, compared with only eight during the same period last year.
More than 60 polio workers and security personnel were killed between December 2012 and April 2014, most of them in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, according to Pakistani officials and humanitarian workers.
Militants controlling this area banned vaccination there, saying health workers may include American spies.
"This reassurance is coming at the right time and we sincerely hope this will contribute towards reaching the children," Zubair Mufti of the World Health Organization told reporters. "Public health programs should only be focused toward providing health to the people and not collateral things."
Genetic material obtained through a fake door-to-door hepatitis B vaccination program reportedly helped the CIA confirm Bin Laden's whereabouts in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad. The al-Qaeda leader was killed in a May 2011 raid by U.S. Special Forces.
The Pakistani doctor accused of running the vaccination campaign remains in jail.
Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
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