The most recent measles vaccination program in Syria has been halted for now after at least 36 children have died since Monday evening, after receiving a measles vaccine. Other children remain in intensive care, and the death toll is expected to climb.
The northeastern area of the Idlib province, in rebel-held Syria, has been hard-hit with deaths or hospitalizations in at least eight towns, reports The Guardian/em>. The Syrian interim government has been administering the UN-sponsored measles vaccine program, the second round of which began Monday, but it announced Tuesday that it has called a stop to the program.
Children are dying “excruciating deaths,” reports the Telegraph. “It’s very bad,” according to Daher Zidan, coordinator for the medical charity, Uossm. “Children are dying very quickly. We think it will get worse.”
Some parents have accused the opposition government of using out-dated vaccines or not storing them properly. However, the medical experts in Syria suspect foul play. The Syrian opposition obtained the vaccines through Unicef and the World Health Organization. The same batch of vaccines has been used without incident on 60,000 schoolchildren within the past month. The United Nations goal was to vaccinate 1.6 million Syrian children against measles, mumps, rubella, and polio.
According to Bashar Kayal, a Syrian health official, “The symptoms don’t just indicate spoiled vaccines – it suggests they’ve been contaminated.”
The theory is that the vaccines have been sabotaged, possibly by some in the Assad regime, as a political move to undermine the Syrian interim government.
The symptoms that the children are exhibiting are are consistent with cyanide poisoning: the heart rate slows gradually, and the children turn blue.
Mohammad Mowas, a Syrian doctor working in Turkey, says, “This looks like a deliberate attempt to spike the vaccines.”
Specifically, two vials of the measles vaccine are suspected of being sabotaged, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Each vial contains approximately 40 doses of the vaccine.
Blood samples have been sent to nearby Turkey for testing, which Health Minister Adnan Hazouri hopes will alleviate accusations of neglect. He has promised in a statement to resign if testing reveals negligence instead of sabotage.
“Primary investigations point to a limited security breach by vandals likely connected to the regime, which has been attempting to target the medical sector in Free Syria in order to spread chaos.”
This is not the first time that a vaccine program has been used in warfare for political motives. The White House has admitted that it utilized a phony vaccination program in Pakistan, according to a report by The Inquisitr, to obtain DNA in the search for Osama Bin Laden. Neither is this the first time that vaccines have been found to be tainted with harmful substances.
Clearly, something has gone wrong with this batch of measles vaccine. Innocent Syrian children are paying the cost.
[images via Vaccine Liberation Army and Mustafa Ozer/AFP]