Pakistan Polio Killings: Vaccinations Resume

Pakistan Polio Killings: Vaccinations Resume

Polio vaccinations in northwestern Pakistan have resumed under police and paramilitary protection following a series of attacks on medical workers.

The UN suspended its nationwide programme in December after nine workers were murdered. Earlier this week another seven charity workers involved in the work were shot dead in the Swabi district.

The Taliban has accused health workers of acting as US spies and claimed the vaccine makes children sterile or impotent. It has banned vaccination teams from some areas until the US ends drone strikes in the country.

Pakistan is one of only three countries in the world where polio, a highly-infectious disease, is endemic.

Children will now be inoculated in smaller phases as part of a more low-key effort backed by security protection, confirmed a senior government official.

Motorcycles will be banned in some vaccination areas to stop potential drive-by shootings, said an official in the city of Peshawar, home to more than three million people.

Doctor Janbaz Afridi, the head of polio eradication in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said vaccinations would also be carried out at varying times in different districts to improve safety.

"The inoculation teams can now go into selected areas with adequate security at any suitable time instead of a province-wide campaign, "explained Dr Afridi.

Some female health workers had been refusing to take part in the polio programme after the recent attacks.

Twelve of the 16 people killed in the December and January attacks were women.

Taliban opposition to the campaign has grown after it emerged last year a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination programme to help the CIA track down and kill Osama bin Laden.

Polio cases in Pakistan have risen sharply in recent years, hitting 198 in 2011 - the highest figure for more than a decade and the most of any country in the world last year, according to the UN World Health Organisation.