Health misinformation and murders of polio vaccine workers in Afghanistan (2)

17 June, 2021

Vaccine hesitancy is rampant all over the world. A good case in point is the US, richest in wealth, but one of the poorest in vaccine acceptance.

In some countries, vaccine hesitancy and boiled over to resistance and outright violence against those proposing vaccination. Again the parallels are with the violence by right-to-life groups in the US and Europe.

A key factor that has fueled this outrageous trend in Pakistan and Afghanistan is the use of the vaccine programme to trap Osama Bin Laden. From the perspective of those supporting Osama Bin Laden, the vaccine programme was an instrument used to achieve a military objective and an assassination of their leader.

This has brought forward the deep rooted ethical dilemma that we need to remind ourselves. What are the ethics on the use of health programmes, health workers and facilities to achieve military objectives? To gloss over this issue in any discussion and to limit it to the distal consequences alone is unlikely to help.

Should HIFA be leading a discussion on this area? Does the Geneva convention offer some guidance?

Saroj Jayasinghe MBBS (Col), MD (Col), MRCP (UK), MD (Bristol), PhD (Col),

FRCP (Lond), FCCP, FNASSLConsultant Physician ColomboSri


HIFA Profile: Saroj Jayasinghe is the Professor of Medicine of the University of Colombo and a consultant physician in the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Colombo. Recently he was appointed as the head of the Department of Medical Humanities of the University of Colombo, the first of such department in the region.