Vaccines: the tragedy of Pakistan

Pakistan border
Blogging the great flowchart Should you vaccinate your child? reminded me to follow up on the tragic anti-vaccination experiment being carried out reluctantly in Pakistan.

The vaccination drive in that country has run into major violent opposition, a proximate cause for which was the role of a doctor involved in vaccinations in the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, though this was only a trigger for longer-running desires to oppose the government and foreign aid combined with a contempt for science and a disregard for the health of fellow Muslims on the part of extremists in Pakistan.

The result has been a (thankfully rare) test of what happens if, as anti-vaccination campaigners call for in a completely different peaceful way elsewhere, there is a major reduction in vaccination efforts.

The result in Pakistan? Tragedy:

Pakistan’s polio crisis has reached new depths [in 2014], health officials say, intensified by a deadly mix of ruthless militant violence, large-scale refugee displacement and political chaos that has cemented the country’s role as the central global incubator of a disease that other conflict-torn countries have managed to hold in check.

The number of new Pakistani polio cases this year hit 260 [in the last week of November 2014], four times as many as at the same point last year.

The triggers in Pakistan for cutting back on vaccination are very different, but the results would be the same here or elsewhere: more deaths.

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