Six polio vaccination workers are shot dead in Pakistan

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 19 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8609
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. 1London

Six polio vaccination workers have been shot and killed in Pakistan. Five workers were killed in Karachi, and another was killed in the city of Peshawar, in what Pakistani police told the BBC were “pre-planned and coordinated attacks.”

Another man was also shot, but it is unclear whether this shooting was linked to the polio vaccination campaign.

The shootings took place during a three day nationwide polio vaccination campaign, a regular event in Pakistan, one of only three countries in the world, alongside Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio is still endemic.

Michael Coleman, a spokesman for Unicef in Pakistan, said that details of the attacks were still unclear and that no one had yet claimed responsibility for the shootings, although press reports have laid the blame on the Taliban.

He added, “A decision [to suspend the polio vaccination campaign] is still being discussed at provincial and national levels.”

The six people were all government employees, part of the national polio team, said Coleman.

This is at least the third time that polio vaccination workers have been shot in Pakistan this year. The first incident was in July, when two workers were shot at and then a few days later a community worker was killed.1 And another worker was killed in October.

Two polio vaccination workers were also killed in separate incidents in Afghanistan last week. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by the World Health Organization, said that the shootings in Afghanistan “underline the truly heroic and courageous efforts of frontline health workers.”

The latest weekly figures from the initiative show that there have been 56 confirmed cases of the disease in Pakistan this year, compared with 173 at the same point last year. Globally there have been 213 cases so far this year, compared with 571 at the same point in 2011.


Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8609