Pakistan's efforts to combat polio are being hampered as a result of a faux-vaccination campaign used in the hunt to catch al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the United Nations says. Many Pakistani families have refused to get their children vaccinated in target areas between July and September, specifically citing the earlier fake as the reason.
Recent revelations about a fake CIA vaccination program used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden added to the myriad of challenges facing Pakistan's latest polio-vaccination program. Mobile migrant populations, infrastructure gaps and public fears over vaccines have helped leave Pakistan as the only country in the world to where polio remains endemic that cases are rising.
An additional loan of $41 million has been approved by the World Bank for the polio vaccination program in Pakistan in order to enable the government to immunize 32 million children against the disease. The country has seen a spike in the number of polio cases since last year's floods and continued fighting against Taliban insurgents.
Pakistani health officials are reporting more than a dozen new cases of polio in the country's troubled Swat Valley region. Health workers have been unable to ensure immunization coverage for children living in the area for more than a year as security forces battle Taliban militants.
Belief that the oral polio vaccine may cause impotency appears to be dissipating in Pakistan's ultraconservative Northwest Frontier Province, one of the world's last strongholds of the disease, Pakistani authorities and aid agencies say. A recent immunization drive has resulted in improved coverage levels, raising hopes eradication efforts may gain a real foothold in the area.