Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Polio vaccination worker shot dead by gunmen on motorbike in Pakistan

A young woman vaccinating children against polio in Pakistan has been shot dead by gunmen on a motorbike – in the third attack this week.

The Taliban claims the vaccine is part of a foreign plot to sterilise Muslims, and that those administering it are Western spies.

Mosques in the northwestern city of Peshawar broadcasted false reports on Monday, claiming that the vaccine had made children sick.

In the ensuing panic, worried parents took thousands of children to hospitals and clinics.

In the latest attack, two gunmen on a motorbike attacked a medical team in the district of Chaman, on the country’s western border with Afghanistan, government official Samiullah Agha said.

“One of the polio workers, Rashida Bibi, who was around 20, died and another of her colleagues was critically wounded,” he said.

No one has said they were behind the attack.

Two police officers guarding medical teams were killed in the country’s northwest this week, and a polio worker was stabbed to death in the eastern city of Lahore.

Pakistan is one of only three countries – along with Afghanistan and Nigeria – that suffers from endemic polio. It has reported four cases this year.

There is no known cure for the virus, which can cause paralysis or death, but the World Health Organisation says it can be prevented if children receive the vaccine multiple times.

As long as a single child remains infected, the virus is able to spread to polio-free countries and populations which have not been immunised.

The government in Pakistan runs public health campaigns and involves religious leaders who reassure parents that the vaccine protects their children from a serious disease.

But those campaigns suffered a setback in 2011 when a Pakistani doctor, who was believed to have been assisting the CIA, was accused of using a fake vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

The doctor was arrested and jailed.

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