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article imageOp-Ed: Talibanization of health: Forced polio vaccination in Pakistan

By Ernest Dempsey     Mar 3, 2014 in World
Karachi - The politics of vaccination has come to new, though not unexpected, turns in Pakistan as the government has started imposing the polio vaccine on civilians by intimidation.
Forced administration of polio vaccine in the third world raises concern of human rights violation by states. Over the last more than 10 years, civilians in parts of Pakistan have suffered from traumatic incidents of Sharia law imposed by Taliban at gun point. Now, we see guns of government forces at people’s doors, the mere sight of which is enough to scare most parents into remaining silent — where polio vaccination teams visit to administer polio vaccine.
According to popular news sources, the government in Sindh province of Pakistan recently announced that parents who refuse to let their children be vaccinated with polio drops would face arrest by the police, and that the arrest would come without a warrant. This open, shocking violation of human rights was mainly ignored in mainstream media, and no human rights activists stood up to question the legitimacy of these orders by Sind government.
On the one hand, militants are targeting polio vaccination teams, which is condemnable and a brutal example of terrorism. Polio workers are doing their jobs and it should be up to parents or guardians to decide what is good for their children not up to Islamist militants or anyone else. And by anyone else, I mean the government included. Yet, the government in Sindh chose to step on people’s very basic rights and gave such orders that would literally claim ownership of the bodies of civilians. The questionable safety of the oral polio vaccine aside, the fact that people are treated like helpless animals who can’t have a say in choosing whether or not they own the right to decide about their health is of great concern from ethical as well as a social viewpoint.
Certainly the question is who is sponsoring this mass violation of human rights with a biological agent imposed on people’s bodies — a vaccine that was “discontinued” in the west long ago due to its health risks and potential for causing permanent paralysis. The answer is in the question: WHO. But then, as the story on Express Tribune notes, people tend to react against this kind of tyranny; and in Pakistan they are now actively refusing to let the vaccinators administer the drops to their children. After all, why would someone be not suspicious of something that is forced on them at gunpoint — whether the authority is dressed as Taliban or a uniformed government officer?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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