The White House has said that the CIA will no longer use immunisation programmes as a cover for its operations following a complaint that the intelligence agency used such a campaign in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader.

The deans of 12 public health schools in the US had complained about a reported vaccination programme conducted by a Pakistani doctor, who used a hepatitis immunisation survey in the Pakistani city where bin Laden was later killed in a US mission.

The CIA orchestrated the survey to try to obtain fluid containing DNA from relatives living near the bin Laden residence, the Washington Post reported, according to the Reuters news agency.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said Obama homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco had assured the deans in a letter that CIA policy as of August 2013 makes clear "the CIA will make no operational use of vaccination programmes, which includes vaccination workers".

"Similarly, the agency will not seek to obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programmes. This policy applies worldwide, and to US persons and non-US persons alike," she said.

Source: Reuters