Officials having long lionized the CIA’s fake polio vaccination program in Pakistan, which led to the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but the huge backlash against vaccinations in general in the country, and a surge in polio cases apparently eventually forced a rethink.
Officials now say that CIA Director John Brennan issued a directive in August banning the agency from ever again making “operational use” of any vaccination programs or posing as vaccination workers.
Pakistan jailed Dr. Shakil Afridi, the doctor who ran the phony CIA scheme. The US objected to that, but the damage of the operation was incalculable, as the foreign vaccination program Dr. Afridi was pretending to be from was essentially forced from Pakistan by the scandal, and dozens of vaccination workers have been killed by the Taliban under the assumption that they too are CIA.
The biggest damage is yet to come. Polio was once on the brink of extinction, a rarity in Pakistan’s tribal areas and unheard of elsewhere. Since the anti-vaccination backlash, Pakistan has faced a growing outbreak of polio nationwide, with the World Health Organization (WHO) imposing travel restrictions on Pakistanis who have yet to be vaccinated.