"Three workers in a polio eradication campaign were shot in Pakistan on Wednesday, and two of them were killed, the latest in an unprecedented string of attacks over the past three days that has partially halted the U.N.-backed campaign," Reuters reports (Ahmad, 12/19). "Earlier on Tuesday, five health workers involved in the vaccination drive were killed in the cities of Karachi and Peshawar," News Pakistan notes (12/19). Another health care worker was killed on Monday, according to a statement issued Tuesday by the WHO, UNICEF and the Pakistani and provincial governments, which condemned the multiple attacks. "We call on the leaders of the affected communities and everyone concerned to do their utmost to protect health workers and create a secure environment so that we can meet the health needs of the children of Pakistan," the statement said (12/18). The Associated Press reports the WHO suspended the vaccination campaign in two of the country's provinces (Khan, 12/19). However, CNN reports the "attacks prompted authorities to suspend the campaign throughout the country" (Khan, 12/19). "Under the canceled program, Pakistani health officials planned to administer millions of 'polio drops' to immunize people," according to International Business Times, which adds, "The program involved 25,000 workers targeting more than 30 million children" (Ghosh, 12/18).
"Pakistan is one of the world's three remaining polio hotspots," Science Insider notes (Roberts, 12/18). "Militants however accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the vaccine makes children sterile," the Associated Press/Huffington Post writes (Jawad/Abbot, 12/18). "No group claimed responsibility for the attacks, but most suspicion focused on the Pakistani Taliban," according to the New York Times (Walsh/McNeil, 12/18). "In June, a Taliban commander in northwest Pakistan announced a ban on polio vaccines for children in the region as long as the United States continues its campaign of drone strikes in the region, the Taliban said," CNN notes (12/19). "Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ... said in a statement that the country had to neutralize the message of those resisting the government's efforts to immunize the population against polio," VOA News reports (Behn, 12/18).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.