The recent selection of Jenny McCarthy for a spot on The View has angered vaccinators and people who support childhood vaccination. Her opposition to vaccination, however, puts her in company with the most notorious anti-vaxxers of modern times -- the Taliban.
The coordinated murders of community health care workers in Pakistan, most of them women, in May has once again put into jeopardy the global polio eradication initiative. While the movement initially experienced exponential progress, it now finds itself trapped in an increasingly bloody battle with Islamic fundamentalists. When a female health worker wakes up in the morning, puts on her shalwar kameez, covering her head and most of her face in a dupatta, she is getting in gear to step out on to the front lines of one of the most important and dangerous wars of our time.
The global battle against polio lends itself well to the grisly metaphors of war. In many ways, the world-wide campaign to eradicate the disease has mirrored the fight against terrorism. The number of polio cases hit its lowest mark in 2001 with 483 cases reported. Since then, however, the world has been struggling to go the final inch. With India finally having eradicated polio in 2011, the only thing standing in the way are Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan -- the only countries where polio remains endemic. These fundamentalists have been instrumental in obstructing polio vaccination in all three of these countries. In the Nigerian province of Kano in 2003, Islamic leaders declared polio vaccination to be a conspiracy to sterilize Muslim populations, resulting in a large epidemic that spread polio to several other African countries where polio had previously been eradicated.