LAHORE, Pakistan — Under police guard, thousands of health workers pressed on with a polio immunization program Thursday after nine were killed elsewhere in Pakistan by suspected militants who oppose the vaccination campaign.
Immunizations were halted in some parts of Pakistan and the U.N. suspended its field participation everywhere until better security was arranged for its workers. The violence risks reversing recent progress fighting polio in Pakistan, one of three countries in the world where the disease is endemic.
The Taliban have denied responsibility for the shootings. Militants have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S., alleging the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.
Taliban commanders in Pakistan’s troubled northwest tribal region also said earlier this year that vaccinations can’t go forward until the U.S. stops drone strikes in the country.
Insurgent opposition to the campaign grew last year after it was revealed that a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden, who was hiding in the town of Abbottabad in the country’s northwest.