«Stakes are raised in the battle to beat polio», New Scientist, n. 2594, 8 marzo 2007, p. 6:
Violence and misinformation are threatening the World Health Organization’s efforts to eradicate polio. Last month Abdul Ghani Khan, a senior Pakistani doctor, was killed by a remote-controlled bomb shortly after urging villagers to vaccinate their children. In Pakistan, Afghanistan and among Muslim communities in India, some local clerics have denounced vaccination as a pro-western plot to sterilise Muslims. The same rumours stopped vaccination in northern Nigeria in 2003, causing an international surge in polio cases.
In Pakistan, some clerics who command a loyal local following have even declared that preventing epidemics is contrary to Islamic law, and have described people infected with polio as “martyrs”. In response, senior Muslims in Pakistan have issued pro-vaccination fatwa decrees. Some mothers are reportedly getting children vaccinated secretly for fear of local reprisals.
Meeting in Geneva last week, the WHO and the four countries where polio is still circulating – India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria – renewed their pledge to eradicate the disease. This will cost a projected $575 million, on top of the $5.3 billion already spent worldwide on eradicating polio (New Scientist, 27 January, p. 3).
“We are facing our best and perhaps our last chance to eradicate polio,” new WHO director-general Margaret Chan told the meeting. The meeting set no target for eradication, however – two previous deadlines, in 2000 and 2005, have been missed.