|47,500 Cases of Paralytic Polio Caused by the OPV|
Pakistan may be one of the world's three remaining polio-stricken countries but Sartaj Khan has decided that the government-sponsored vaccination campaign is much more sinister than it appears. "These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation," said Khan, a 42-year-old lawyer in the city of Peshawar. "The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out. "Khan is not alone in the belief, propagated by extremist groups, that is gaining currency in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan: The government’s anti-polio campaign is a ruse by the Americans to sterilize or spy on Muslims. Many also believe that much like the Pakistani physician, Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who helped the CIA run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of Osama bin Laden, the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children are also on the United States’ payroll. The belief has turned deadly: Nine anti-polio workers have been killed by gunmen on motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls. Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and officials suspended it in some parts of the country.There are ranks of parents whose awareness is low and suspicions high when it comes to the deadly virus: A November World Health Organization study found that 41 percent of those polled had never heard of polio — and 11 percent refused to vaccinate their children.
The reality is that polio can paralyze or kill within hours of infection. It is transmitted person-to-person, meaning that as long as one child is infected, the disease can be passed to others. Nuclear-armed and militancy-struck Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are the only countries still struggling with polio. Extremists have opposed vaccination programs in Afghanistan and Nigeria, although they haven’t resorted to the sort of violence seen in Pakistan. According to the World Health Organization, there were 213 new cases of polio worldwide in 2012, including 56 in Pakistan.
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