Syrian authorities blame the UN vaccination program for the deaths of 36 children.
Relief organisations just over the border in Turkey said the loss of life was extensive, rising as high as 36, with more than a dozen other children in a serious condition.
“It’s very bad. The figures of dead go into the 30s. Children are dying very quickly,” Daher Zidan, the coordinator of the medical charity UOSSM (Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations), said, as quoted by the news site. “We think it will get worse.”
A Syrian opposition coalition consisting of rebels controls the area of Idlib province. The coalition had been administering the immunization project.
The vaccination program was being managed and administered by the UN’s World Health Organization, which launched the drive to vaccinate 1.6 million Syrian children. At press time, The Telegraph reported, WHO officials were still trying to confirm reports of the deaths and vaccine contamination but had no information on casualty figures.
A number of sympathizers with the Syrian opposition had circulated images on social media sites of children allegedly dying from the vaccine. Many of them hinted that perhaps agents working on behalf of the Assad regime had contaminated the vaccines with cyanide.
Officials with WHO and the UN, as well as Syrian opposition members, feared that the final death toll would be higher, especially because the region is isolated.
Mohammad Mowas, a Syrian doctor working in Turkey, said the reported symptoms were a gradual slowdown in the heart rate as the infants turned blue, which were consistent with cyanide poisoning.
He also stated that “This looks like a deliberate attempt to spike the vaccines”.