Bad Measles Vaccine Kills Up To 50 Children In Northern Syria

Rick Gladstone and Hwaida Saad | The Globe and Mail | September 17, 2014

Spoiled or possibly sabotaged measles vaccine has killed as many as 50 children in insurgent-held areas of northwestern Syria, forcing a suspension of a large-scale vaccination campaign intended to stop the spread of measles, mumps, rubella and polio, volunteer medical organizations reported Wednesday.  The victims, some of them infants, apparently all died on Tuesday, mostly concentrated in the cities of Jarjanaz and Sinjar in Idlib province, an area controlled by forces opposed to President Bashar Assad. These opposition forces have sought to function as an interim government and provide basic health care services, including inoculations and vaccinations to children, given the collapse of Syria’s public health care system since the civil war began more than three years ago.

Dozens of other children in Idlib were reported to have been sickened by the vaccine. Dr. Abdulla Ajaj, a physician who helped administer the vaccine, said the suspect batch of doses had been received three days before they were used. “This is the first time we have had such a problem,” he said in a Skype interview.

The provenance of the vaccine was not immediately clear, but Ajaj speculated that the doses may have been stored at improperly high temperatures. “Most probably they were badly kept inside the fridges,” he said.  The Syrian American Medical Society, which organizes medical missions to Syria and runs a hospital in Idlib, said recipients of the bad vaccine began displaying symptoms within minutes, including shortness of breath, slowed heart rate, wheezing and inflammation of the larynx...