If you've seen the movie Zero Dark Thirty, you've seen how the CIA tried to ascertain the identity of Osama bin Laden by sending a doctor to the compound where bin Laden was suspected to be hiding. The doctor represented a sham vaccination program (against Hepatitis B), asking for permission to vaccinate the children in the compound, with the intention of running DNA analyses on the syringes afterwards to determine whether any of the children were bin Laden's. The effort failed because the doctor didn't get a chance to vaccinate any of the children.

On a recent episode of Star Talk Radio, Lori Garrett (sp?) asserted that this caused a violent backlash against healthcare workers, including numerous assassinations of volunteer helpers to the Polio eradication campaign. An article in Scientific American seems to corroborate this. (The doctor himself appears to have been sentenced to 33 years in a Pakistani prison for his actions.)

Moral issues with using healthcare workers for non-healthcare purposes aside, is that really true? Did the Taliban (or other Muslim groups) start or increase their anti-vaccination actions after this became public? I was under the impression that religious "aversion" to vaccination campaigns (together with all sorts of conspiracy theories) has been around much longer than this incident. Are there any studies on this?

  • 8
    Ben Goldacre recently wrote about how vaccinations scares respect cultural boundaries. My point is that anti-vaccination conspiracy theories might be older in other countries, but that doesn't mean this issue didn't have a significant impact on vaccination uptake in certain cultures. – Oddthinking Jun 14 '13 at 8:29
  • 1
    Why do you doubt the Scientific American article? I'm curious because your answer might change the type of evidence I look for. – user5582 Jun 17 '13 at 22:02
  • 1
    @Sancho: I am inclined to believe it, but I would like to know the basis for these assertions. For example, has the number of attacks on vaccinators/healthcare workers increased significantly since this ruse was made public? Have there been claims of responsibility for such attacks that reference it? – Tim Pietzcker Jun 18 '13 at 5:21
  • 1
    Here is another story on the same topic: worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/22/… – ChrisW Jul 5 '13 at 0:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .