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Updated 8:00 p.m. ET with new video: PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan may be one of the world's three remaining polio-stricken countries but Sartaj Khan has decided that the government-sponsored vaccination campaign is much more sinister than it appears.
"These vaccines are meant to destroy our nation," said Khan, a 42-year-old lawyer in the city of Peshawar. "The [polio] drops make men less manly, and make women more excited and less bashful. Our enemies want to wipe us out."
Khan is not alone in the belief, propagated by extremist groups, that is gaining currency in the Pashtun belt of northwestern Pakistan: The government’s anti-polio campaign is a ruse by the Americans to sterilize or spy on Muslims.
Many also believe that much like the Pakistani physician, Dr. Shakeel Afridi, who helped the CIA run a fake vaccination program to establish the presence of Osama bin Laden, the army of health workers employed to vaccinate the country’s children are also on the United States’ payroll.
The belief has turned deadly: Nine anti-polio workers have been killed by gunmen on motorcycles this week. Some of those killed were teenage girls. Following the violence, the United Nations pulled back all staff involved in the vaccination campaign and officials suspended it in some parts of the country.
Regardless of where you stand on vaccines, why do you think this is happening and how (if possible) are we able to combat this kind of thinking, or do you think these people have a reason to feel this way?
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