Polio vaccination doctor shot in Pakistan

Recently there emerged from Pakistan disturbing news of a renewed campaign against polio vaccination, in which a doctor involved in such a program was shot. Pakistan is one of the few remaining countries (along with Afghanistan and Nigeria) where polio has not been eradicated.

This latest setback is suspected to be because the Taliban thinks that public health workers may be being used as spies to identify targets for US drone attacks, coupled with ignorant clerics who think that vaccination programs are anti-Islamic for some reason, probably thinking along the lines of those who used to worry that fluoridation of water was some evil Commie plot to pollute our precious bodily fluids.

It did not help in the least that it is now widely known that the CIA used a fake polio vaccination campaign in its plan to flush out Osama bin Laden, further fuelling those suspicions.

Health workers were horrified at the use of public health programs to pursue a military goal because they believed it would make their work harder. 2011 was the worst year in Pakistan in more than a decade, with over 200 new polio cases being detected.


  1. says

    Ugh, that’s horrible.

    The BBC didn’t know who the doctor was, though it does seem to know he’s male, so it won’t be easy to find out if he survived.

  2. Kilian Hekhuis says

    Although the BBC report says the doctor was “critically” injured, other news outlets seem either more informed or have different sources. E.g. this article states they were wounded but stable.

  3. Dianne says

    While the shooting is, of course, appalling, I’m afraid that given recent US backed activities I can’t see suspicion of vaccination as a completely irrational position for Pakastanis. Wish I could, but the fact is that in the recent past vaccination campaigns have been used as a cover for espionage. Doesn’t excuse the shooting, though.

  4. says

    Actually, it kinda does excuse the shooting: if medical clinics are being used by the military to achieve military objectives, that pretty much makes them legitimate targets for retaliation.

    One of the reasons medical personnel were considered off-limits in war, is that they’re generally understood to be noncombattants, having nothing to do with any actual killing operations. I hate to say this, but the US military made medical personnel legitimate targets by making them (at least in their appearance to locals) part of a military operation — and one they were pretty pissed at to begin with.

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