ISLAMABAD, July 15: A ruse that American CIA reportedly played to get DNA samples of Osama bin Laden is feared to play havoc with the prime minister's special polio vaccination programme, Dawn has learnt.
Health experts and social workers worry that the simple and tradition-bound people in remote parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa may take the reports for truth that CIA sponsored a fake vaccination drive in Abbottabad to get the world's most wanted fugitive and develop aversion to the real and much needed polio vaccination programme of the prime minister.
A new round of National Immunisation is set for July 18 and 20 to administer approximately 32.7 million children under five the Oral Polio Vaccine, according to the Pakistan Polio Journal.
Pakistan registered 64 polio cases this year, against 38 last year, mostly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“We fear largescale refusals (of the vaccine) from parents in Fata, Wazirstan and several parts of Khyber-Paktunkhwa. We have been receiving disturbing reactions to the reports that the Americans used the vaccination drive to their own purposes,” an officer close to the developments told Dawn requesting anonymity.
A source said foreign donors to the anti-polio campaign in Pakistan, including the World Health Organisation and Unicef, met on Friday to discuss the disturbing development. “They are yet to find a solution how to avert a likely setback to the vaccination campaign Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid by US Seals on his compound in Abbotabad on May 2 and buried at sea after confirming the identity of the wanted fugitive through DNA test.
Anti-American feelings are rife in the tribal areas where CIA drones frequently target Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders, and cause collateral damage.
An official of the Prime Minister's Secretariat said: “A meeting is to be held on July 16 at the secretariat under Khushnood Akhtar Lashari, principal secretary to the prime minister.
“The focus of the meeting will be on finding ways to overcome the likely parental refusals of polio vaccine in areas where militancy already had been posing a challenge to the anti-polio campaign.”
“One proposal is to win the support of Imams (prayer leaders) of mosques in the Khyber province to the vaccination programme, and through them their congregations,” said the official.
Though he did not say how the Imams, who act independently, would be won over to government's thinking, he promised the deliberations of the meeting would be shared with the media.
No official of the National Polio Programme was available for comments on the issue, nor were cabinet secretary Nargis Sethi and Principal Secretary to PM Khushnood Lashari.