Pak­istan po­lio vac­ci­na­tion team at­tacked; two killed

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Pe­shawar, Pak­istan - Gun­men killed at least two policemen in an at­tack on a po­lio vac­ci­na­tion se­cu­rity team in north­west Pak­istan on Wednesday, the lat­est set­back in the na­tion’s cam­paign to erad­i­cate the dis­ease.

The per­son­nel were part of a na­tion­wide anti-po­lio drive launched this week, aim­ing to in­oc­u­late tens of mil­lions of chil­dren in Pak­istan - one of only two coun­tries where the crip­pling dis­ease re­mains en­demic.

Two gun­men on a mo­tor­cy­cle car­ried out the at­tack in the Lal Qila area of Khy­berPakhtun­khwa prov­ince, near the bor­der with Afghanista­n, as po­lice of­fi­cials were gath­er­ing at a health cen­tre be­fore head­ing out with po­lio vac­ci­na­tors, said po­lice of­fi­cial Arif Shah­baz.

“The vac­ci­na­tors were un­hurt,” added Shah­baz. An­other po­lice of­fi­cer con­firmed the in­ci­dent and the toll.

The at­tack comes dur­ing a dev­as­tat­ing year in Pak­istan’s long fight against the dis­ease, with at least 104 cases re­ported in 2019 so far. Last year, just 12 cases were re­ported.

There was no im­me­di­ate claim of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Wednesday’s killings, but the Pakistani Tal­iban and other mil­i­tants have tar­geted po­lio vac­ci­na­tors in the past.

Vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns have faced stubborn re­sis­tance for years in Pak­istan, with many re­fus­ing to have their chil­dren inoc­u­lated be­cause of mis­in­for­ma­tion and con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

Rad­i­cals op­po­si­tion to all forms of in­oc­u­la­tion grew af­ter the CIA or­gan­ised a fake vac­ci­na­tion drive to help track down Al Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani city of Ab­bot­tabad.

But as Pak­istan tries to reach its goal of elim­i­nat­ing po­lio from its ter­ri­tory, a new chal­lenge has emerged in the form of a grow­ing global move­ment against vac­ci­na­tions.

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