Syrian opposition halts vaccinations
after death reports

BEIRUT - The Syrian opposition said Tuesday it halted a measles vaccination campaign in northeastern Idlib province following reports that children had died after being inoculated.


The announcement came in a statement posted on the websites of the Syrian opposition National Coalition and the rebel interim government.


"The Syrian interim government's health ministry has instructed a halt to the second round of the measles vaccination campaign, which began Monday... following several fatalities and injuries among children in vaccination centers in the Idlib countryside," the statement said.


It stressed that a first round of vaccinations against measles, which began a month ago, had been carried out "without any problems."


They said the vaccines being used in the latest campaign had come from the same "source" as those in the previous round, without specifying what that was.


The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based NGO, said "at least five children have died and 50 others are suffering from poisoning or allergic reactions after measles vaccinations in Jirjanaz, in Idlib province."


The group said medical sources had suggested the vaccines could have been compromised, possibly either because they were expired or poorly stored, but there was no confirmation.


Medical groups have rushed to head off the spread of measles, mumps, rubella and particularly polio in Syria, as normal medical services have disintegrated during the conflict since 2011 between the government and armed rebels.


The United Nations said earlier this year that 1.6 million children were to be vaccinated inside Syria against polio, measles, mumps and rubella.