The CIA, bin Laden and the future of vaccine programs

As U.S. intelligence zeroed in on Osama bin Laden's location in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the CIA found a useful front to obtain his family DNA: a hepatitis B vaccine program. It's unknown if the CIA obtained the DNA, and many experts supporting vaccination efforts in developing countries worry about the long-term effects of this covert op.

While an anonymous senior U.S. official told the AP this operation was a rare occurrence, its existence doesn't help stem distrust in the areas that need the vaccination programs the most. "It's just so unfortunate. It's the worst kind of labeling you could put on a public health campaign," Sona Bari, a World Health Organization spokeswoman, told the AP. "Any backlash against this will hurt the children of Pakistan."

In 2009, President Barack Obama assured leaders in Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan that his desire to establish polio-eradicating vaccine programs in those countries was an effort to eliminate the disease. The assurances came on the heels of Taliban and other leaders' claims that the vaccinations would cause infertility that would control the size of the Muslim population. While most leaders have advocated and even praised the vaccination efforts as polio cases diminished, the AP notes that the tribal regions of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border are still difficult territory.

Currently, Pakistan is the only country seeing a rise in polio cases with 60% of the world's cases occurring there.

- here's a report from The Guardian
- see the AP story
- and another from the AP