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U.S. Should Issue Formal Ban On Using Vaccination Campaigns As Cover For Intelligence Operations

In an opinion piece in Bloomberg Businessweek’s “Small World” blog, Charles Kenny, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation, examines the effects of “a fake polio vaccination drive organized by the CIA in an effort to collect DNA from [Osama] bin Laden’s family” on polio immunization efforts in Pakistan. He writes, “Over the past two months, nearly a dozen polio vaccinators have been killed in Pakistan, most likely by the Taliban,” adding, “Heightened popular suspicion and security concerns in Pakistan are putting in danger a remarkable record of global success toward wiping out polio, as well as progress against a range of other infectious diseases that kill millions of kids each year.”

Kenny recounts progress made in the global response against polio, continuing, “All this progress could be jeopardized if the disease spreads in the three countries that have never eliminated polio: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.” He notes “a polio virus strain originating from the country was recently discovered in sewage samples collected in Cairo in December,” which “suggests the disease could reemerge in Egypt, which has been polio-free since 2004.” Kenny writes, “There’s reason to worry that the CIA’s failed vaccine ruse in Abbottabad has put continued progress at risk,” concluding, “That’s why the U.S. should publicly forswear repeating it. A formal ban on using [vaccine] campaigns as cover for intelligence operations wouldn’t stamp out all the conspiracy theories,” but “it might help make vaccine workers less of a target” (2/4).