CIA scheme to capture Bin Laden led to vaccination drop in Pakistan: study

Washington, May 11 (EFE).- A fake vaccination campaign orchestrated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to capture Osama bin Laden in 2011 resulted in a significant decrease in immunization rates in Pakistan, according to a study published Tuesday.

The research paper appears in the Journal of the European Economic Association, published by Oxford University Press.

“The empirical evidence highlights that events which cast doubt on the integrity of health workers or vaccines can have severe consequences for the acceptance of health products such as vaccines,” said Andreas Stegmann, one of the paper’s authors.

“This seems particularly relevant today as public acceptance of the new vaccines against Covid-19 is crucial to address the pandemic.”

In 2011, with the help of a local senior doctor, the CIA planned a vaccination drive in order to collect DNA samples from children living in a compound in Abbottabad, where they suspected Bin Laden was hiding, to attain proof of his location, the study said.

DNA from any of his children could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010.

According to the study, the doctor began administering hepatitis B vaccines to children in Abbottabad, without the consent of the Pakistani health authorities.

This intelligence tactic was not disclosed until after Bin Laden was killed in a US special forces operation on May 2, 2011 (May 1 in the US), when the British newspaper the Guardian exposed the vaccination campaign.

Even prior to the CIA operation, extremist groups in Pakistan had run their own smear and mistrust campaigns against “Western” medicine, and discredited government agencies, the study said.

Following the publication of the Guardian article, the Taliban issued various religious edicts linking any vaccination campaign to CIA espionage activities, and later attacked medical personnel dedicated to immunizing the population, it added.

The researchers analyzed data on social and living standards in Pakistan for children born between January 2010 and July 2012.

The analysis found that the immunization rate fell between 23 percent and 39 percent in districts with the highest levels of electoral support for parties that sympathized with extremists, compared to districts with the lower levels of support for those parties.

The data also shows that the reduction in vaccination rates for girls was higher than for boys.

To date, only 5 million out of a 220-million population have registered for Covid-19 immunization in Pakistan, according to Minister for Covid Response Asad Umar.

Just over 3 million have been vaccinated so far as the country battles a third wave of its epidemic. EFE


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