MSF Slams Fake US Vaccination Campaign in Pakistan

A polio vaccination drive in Pakistan. Photo by: Ground Report / CC BY-NC

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency was criticized anew for its fake vaccination campaign in Pakistan, with an international medical aid group saying the bogus vaccine drive could prompt distrust in humanitarian aid and on medical workers.

“The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid,” Unni Karunakara, Medecins Sans Frontieres’ international president, said, according to the Guardian.  “The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.”

The deceptive use of vaccination campaigns and other health care services endangers legitimate ones, Karunakara added, explaining that it is already “challenging enough” for aid workers and health agencies to gain access to and build trust within local communities.

The Guardian’s health editor has also argued that the fake vaccination campaign, which the CIA conducted as part of its efforts to hunt down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, could undermine future immunization drives.

>> Sarah Boseley: Fake CIA Vaccination Campaign Could Undermine Future Drives

Meantime, a U.S. official defended the campaign as “an actual vaccination campaign conducted by real medical professionals,” the Guardian reports, adding that the official requested not to be named.

“The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else,” the official said, as quoted by the newspaper, which broke the vaccination campaign story. “If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden.”

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.