Immunization workers murdered: The price of killing Osama bin Laden

The price has been in lives.  The capture and killing of Osama bin Laden occurred without loss of any U.S. military lives.  It was hailed as a hugely successful special forces and intelligence operation. Still to believe that the operation was accomplished without the loss of life is both incorrect and naive. The lives lost have been those of polio vaccination workers murdered in the backlash against the use of CIA operatives masquerading as immunization workers to gather intelligence in Pakistan.  Other lives changed forever are those of children who have been and will be paralyzed by polio who will not receive vaccination against polio in the aftermath of this intelligence gathering deception.

Since it became known that the CIA used a Pakistani physician to obtain DNA from a child while administering a hepatitis vaccine to children in the compound where bin Laden was hiding, the Muslim violence against polio vaccine workers has intensified and far more children are not receiving polio vaccine.  More than 20 vaccination workers have been killed by Taliban and other fundamentalist Muslim factions since then.

This is a big change in the level of danger of this already difficult mission.  Many more areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria have become unreachable to vaccination workers.  The cost of the fight on polio is over $1 billion annually, and in the last 25 years has been incredibly successful.

Prior to the start of the global push to eradicate polio over 350,000 children annually were paralyzed.  The Rotary International-led PolioPlus campaign, working with governments and the Gates Foundation has been extraordinarily successful.   Last year only 250 cases of paralytic polio were diagnosed, and only in 3 nations, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.  India was the last country declared to have gone a full year without a case of wild strain polio, joining most of the rest of the world as polio free.

Now reaching these remaining areas, all in Muslim controlled regions, is increasingly difficult and dangerous.

I’m not a military analyst, and I consider myself very pro-American, but I am very skeptical that the decision to use a CIA operative posing as an immunization worker in the hunt for Osama bin Laden was worth the relatively easy to anticipate consequences on the war on polio.  What do you think?  Was getting bin Laden worth it?  Was the information gathered so valuable as to endanger this effort to eradicate polio, put vaccination workers at risk for their lives, and prevent children from getting vaccinated?

Edward Pullen is a family physician who blogs at

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  • Guest

    Maybe the Obama administration should have been less into “spiking the football” and gloating and (in the process, leaking top secret operations details), and more focused on maintaining OpSec.

    Oh well. “Al Qaeda Is Dead And Detroit’s Alive”, right? Right?

    • mmer

      Such a relevant and insightful comment, you truly added so much to the discussion.

      Did you notice this blog is a medical blog? Take your Obama-bashing to Newsmax or a link that Drudge posts – there you will find a delightful echo chamber of people that believe Obama is the anti-Christ.

    • PeterPaul Mary

      Totally agree with your comment. And #mmer, the article was posted HERE to have discussion HERE. Complain to the editor – not the commenter. Also, I am insulted personally by your comment b/c in my faith, I do believe Obama IS the anti-Christ, so that’s not funny in my book.

  • Guest

    Lol, I generally don’t come straight out and insult people, but you’re an idiot. As is anyone else that plays the ridiculously silly ‘red vs blue’ game. Both sides are jamming a rod up all of our rear ends and you’re too focused on picking a side to realize it. Divide and conquer; we are so damn screwed.

  • edpullenmd

    Admittedly leaking this info showed poor judgement, but using the fake immunization scheme and thinking it would remain secret was naive too. I agree with guest here that playing the red-blue blame game is not only unproductive, but blatently obstrutive to any progress we as a nation can make.

  • bill10526

    The problem is that Islam is using pre-civilization justice whereby groups are in conflict with other groups. Civilization defines specific crimes. Prosecutors have to prove a particular person committed a defined crime at a particular place and time. Clearly vaccine workers may or may not have done something wrong, but to kill them willy nilly is an act against humanity. The killing of Bin Laden, who was involved in murders on 9/11 in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, in no way justifies barbaric revenge. Muslims demand respect, yet they fight the elimination of Polio. Foo on them!

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