May 20 2014

Twelve leading deans of schools of public health, including Mailman School Dean Linda P. Fried, wrote to President Barack Obama early last year to ask him to suspend the use of phony vaccination programs of the kind used in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. The practice, they wrote, undermined the safety and legitimacy of public health efforts and risked the spread of preventable infectious diseases, particularly polio. Since the sham program came to light, public health workers in Pakistan have been murdered, vaccination efforts suspended, and cases of polio have risen.

Opolio_vaccine_sm.jpgn May 16, 2014, the deans received a response. A letter from Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, reported that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency ordered that the Agency “make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” adding that they “will not seek to obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs.”   

Vaccination programs and other humanitarian and public health programs, the 2013 letter from the Deans argued, must not be “contaminated” in the service of political and security agendas in light of what the programs do to improve human health, foster peace, and provide “one the most constructive means by which our past, present, and future public health students can pursue a life of fulfillment and service.”

 “I am delighted that the White House has agreed with our analysis and taken this bold move to protect our students and graduates in their ability to do public health work in the world’s most needy places,” says Dean Fried.

Read the full letter below: