Groups slams 'fake' CIA immunization ploy

July 15, 2011 at 12:58 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, July 15 (UPI) -- Doctors Without Borders condemned a fake CIA vaccination program used to cover spying on Osama bin Laden, saying it threatened life-saving immunization work.

The international medical aid charity said the ploy used by U.S. intelligence was a "grave manipulation of the medical act," the British newspaper The Guardian reported Friday.

Before the operation in May that killed bin Laden in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan, the CIA recruited a Pakistani doctor and health workers to try to ascertain whether the al-Qaida leader was living in the compound, The Guardian said.

Dr. Shakil Afridi allegedly set up a vaccination drive for hepatitis-B in the town to try to gain entry to the bin Laden compound and obtain DNA samples from those living there.

A senior U.S. government official defended the practice, saying it had been intended as "an actual vaccination campaign conducted by real medical professionals."

However, while the vaccine doses themselves were genuine the medical professionals involved were not following procedures, and in one area did not return a month after the first dose to provide the second required immunization, the Guardian reported.

"The risk is that vulnerable communities -- anywhere -- needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid," said Unni Karunakara, Doctors Without Borders international president. "The potential consequence is that even basic healthcare, including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.

"Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services."

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