Orin Levine '88 penned a July 15 Washington Post op-ed on a CIA vaccination campaign in Pakistan.
From the Post:
The fallout from the CIA's vaccination ploy in Pakistan
By Orin Levine and Laurie Garrett
The reaction from public health workers was understandably fierce when the Guardian reported last week that the CIA had staged a vaccination campaign in an attempt to confirm Osama bin Laden's location by obtaining DNA from his family members. We recognize the importance of the mission to bring bin Laden to justice. But the CIA's reckless tactics could have catastrophic consequences.
The CIA's plot - recruiting a Pakistani doctor to distribute hepatitis vaccines in Abbottabad this spring - destroyed credibility that wasn't its to erode. It was the very trust that communities worldwide have in immunization programs that made vaccinations an appealing ruse. But intelligence officials imprudently burned bridges that took years for health workers to build.
A U.S. official was quoted last week as saying that "People need to put this into some perspective" and that "If the United States hadn't shown this kind of creativity, people would be . . . asking why it hadn't used all tools at its disposal to find bin Laden."
Those searching for perspective should consider some facts about global health.
To start, the CIA's actions may have jeopardized the global polio eradication program, which has saved thousands of lives and in which billions of dollars have been invested. Americans could one day be at risk again from re-imported polio.
Many Pakistani communities suffer from preventable infections, including ones that have been brought under control or eradicated elsewhere. Pakistan is the last place on Earth where wild polio still spreads in local outbreaks. Only a handful of places elsewhere in the world have sporadic cases, and vaccine campaigns are vigorous in those areas. But if the Rotary Club, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, governments and others working to eradicate polio realize their aspirations, Pakistan is where victory will be pronounced.