The Guardian reported today that the Central Intelligence Agency conducted a fake vaccination program in the Pakistani town of Abbottabad in a bid to get the DNA of Osama Bin Laden or his children. If the CIA could get the blood of Bin Laden’s children during the vaccination process, they would be able to compare it to the DNA of his sister who died previously — thereby confirming his presence in the city. The vaccination program was administrated by local health workers unaware of their part in a covert operation:
In March health workers administered the vaccine in a poor neighborhood on the edge of Abbottabad called Nawa Sher. The hepatitis B vaccine is usually given in three doses, the second a month after the first. But in April, instead of administering the second dose in Nawa Sher, the doctor returned to Abbottabad and moved the nurses on to Bilal Town, the suburb where Bin Laden lived.
If true, the CIA’s actions are irresponsible and utterly reprehensible. The quote above implies that the patients never received their second or third doses of the hepatitis B vaccine. And even if they did, there is absolutely no guarantee that the vaccines were real. The simple fact is that the health of the children of Abbottabad has been put at risk through a deceptive medical operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, the operation undermines future vaccination campaigns and Pakistani health workers by fueling conspiracy theories about their true purpose.
Let us be clear about one thing: health care is not a weapon and any use of it as such deserves full-throated condemnation.
Edit: I must point out that the story in the Guardian is sourced to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and thus could well be false. If the ISI told me the sky is blue, I’d ask for a second opinion. Independent sources are needed before we know for certain if it happened.
Edit 2: It is looking more and more like the story is true.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.