Source: New York Times | Page: A14
By: Gladstone, Rick
In its efforts to stop the spread of polio in Syria, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that more than 20 million children in the Middle East are in urgent need of vaccination, two times the WHO’s previous estimates. Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO’s top official in charge of eradicating polio, said the organization’s projection of a two-month vaccination campaign for 10 million Middle East children would now take six to eight months and require at least 50 million doses of vaccine. Originally, 2.5 million children in Syria and more than 8 million in six neighboring countries were to be vaccinated, but Aylward says the decision to double that number was made at a meeting of the WHO regional committee for the eastern Mediterranean last week, after the outbreak of polio in Deir al-Zour, Syria, had been confirmed. Experts believe that the strain of polio in Syria is the same as the one first detected in Pakistan, and it has been found recently in sewage from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, and Israel. Polio, which primarily strikes children ages five and under, had not been seen in Syria for 14 years until last month. The reemergence is blamed in part on the collapse of Syria’s public-health system due to civil war and unrest. The vaccination effort in Syria may be difficult because the government does not control some parts of the country, and some international relief agencies have accused it of hindering emergency aid to civilians.