At least 36 children are dead and over 50 suffering allergic reactions after receiving measles vaccinations under a UN-sponsored program in the rebel-held north of Syria.
Doctors in clinics in the towns of Jirjanaz and Maaret al-Nouman in the northeastern province of Idlib said children started falling ill shortly after the vaccinations were administered.
The mass vaccination drive was part of a high profile international effort to ensure the brutal civil war does not result in an outbreak of measles.
Reports on the number of children vary and are expected to climb. Relief organizations just over the border in Turkey said the loss of life was extensive, rising as high as 36 plus more than a dozen other children in a life-threatening conditions.
The Syrian rebel government, which controls the area of Idlib province and is attempting to oust Assad, had been administering the program with international support. They have since announced the immunization project has been stopped.
Parents accused rebel government health authorities of failing to store the vaccines properly, and of supplying out-of-date medication. But opposition officials denied accusations of negligence, saying that the vaccines came from Unicef and WHO, and that the same batch had successfully vaccinated 60,000 schoolchildren in 30 locations in recent days.
But the rebel government are blaming the Assad government. “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,” the rebel ministry said in a statement.
The WHO said it was urgently checking the reports and could not confirm the toll. Other well-followed Syrian monitoring groups said there had been deaths.
“At least 36 children have died and 50 others are suffering from poisoning or allergic reactions after measles vaccinations in Jirjanaz, in Idlib province,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
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