Vaccines

Botched anti-measles campaign kills 15 children in South Sudan

At least 15 children died in South Sudan after health workers failed to sterilize syringes between uses while vaccinating around 300 kids in early May. The country’s health minister said another 32 children fell ill with symptoms including fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

“The team that vaccinated the children in this tragic event were neither qualified nor trained for the immunization campaign,” Health Minister Riek Gai Kok said in a news conference Friday.

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The clinic took place on May 2-5 in Nacholdokopele village in Eastern Equatoria state, Reuters reported. Reports indicate that children as young as 12 were administering vaccines, and that the vaccines were stored without proper refrigeration throughout the clinic period.

A report prepared by specialists said the children, all reportedly under the age of five, died from severe sepsis toxicity as a result of the vaccine’s contamination, caused by repeated use of an unsterilized syringe.

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The World Health Organization said it continued with the campaign after learning about the deaths because of its “lifesaving” effects on others, Sky News reported. WHO provides some training to South Sudan’s health officials, while the UN provides the vaccines. 

Reuters contributed to this report.