8:15 AM EST, January 11, 2013
The CIA is probably smug and triumphant about its duplicitous vaccination drive in Abbotabad, a mission hatched to catch and kill Osama bin Laden ("A tainted polio program," Jan. 7). As a doctor, I cringe to think of this unscrupulous use of medicine for murder. While the London Guardian investigated the matter and revealed its unethical intricacies, it is amazing that not one American newspaper thought the CIA's vaccination plot was worthy of further scrutiny.
The vaccination drive was against Hepatitis B, a deadly and common disease in the Third World, spread by contaminated needles, surgical instruments and tainted blood. Once the disease is acquired, the treatment is long, arduous and costly. The outcome is uncertain and a cure is not always possible. Prevention is key, and effective vaccination, although available, may not be well accepted or palatable to many in the developing world. The people who most need this vaccine are also the most likely to be suspicious of it and reject it.
Even in the U.S., there is a concerted effort on the part of a vocal minority to undermine all vaccines. Those never exposed to the ravages of polio, whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus, carry on strident campaigns against vaccines, blaming them for autism spectrum disorders and other developmental problems of children. In this anti-vaccine atmosphere, the CIA indulges in a pretend vaccine program, of all the places in Pakistan, where resistance to vaccines is not unusual. The CIA defends itself by saying that under its auspices real doctors administered real Hepatitis B vaccines to real people in Abbotabad. While it may have set up an elaborate ruse, the CIA feels absolved because it followed the Hepatitis B vaccination protocol. Except, and this the CIA does not admit, instead of revaccinating children at one month after the first vaccine dose in one suburb of Abbotabad, the CIA's undercover doctors simply moved on to Osama bin Laden's lair in an entirely different suburb, the Hepatitis B protocol taking a back seat to the excitement of revenge and nail-biting drama.
The Hepatitis B vaccination course consists of three doses of the vaccine, administered at specific time intervals. If the CIA doctors failed to comply with the vaccination schedule practiced all over the world and did not care that some kids in Abbotabad may not have completed their Hepatitis B series, clearly we have a problem.
The CIA litters the world with collateral damage as is evident in this vaccine imbroglio. Doctors Without Borders has expressed righteous indignation at the CIA's mendacity in using a humanitarian cover for its retributive campaign. All Americans should join Doctors Without Borders and condemn the CIA. Osama bin Laden deserved his end and the special operations men performed spectacularly. But when we sink to a new low and victimize children for a military mission we should recoil and be disturbed.
Usha Nellore, Bel Air,
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