SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2018

Polio vaccinations resume in Pakistan after series of attacks

Pakistan is giving police and paramilitary support to health officials taking part in polio vaccinations after multiple attacks on medical workers in the northwest part of the country.

United Nations agencies stopped work on a countrywide campaign to vaccinate children against polio after nine health workers were killed in a series of attacks in Karachi and the northwest part of Pakistan in December. On January 1, six women and a man working for a polio vaccination charity were killed in the Swabi district, AFP reports.

Instead of a widespread campaign, the government opted to vaccinate children in a low key manner in phases with adequate security provisions.

"We had to launch a campaign from January 14, but were not given security clearance, so we reviewed the schedule and modified our policy to do it in phases starting from high-risk districts," Janbaz Afridi, the head of polio eradication in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said, according to AFP. "The inoculation teams can now go into selected areas with adequate security at any suitable time instead of a province-wide campaign."

In 2011, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency used the cover-up as a hepatitis vaccination campaign to find Osama bin Laden. Last year, the Taliban and the followers of Pakistani warlord Mullah Nazir banned polio vaccinations in the tribal region of Waziristan.

Pakistan is one of three endemic polio countries left in the world, AFP reports.