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Reuters Examines Polio Eradication Efforts In Syria

“The Syrian government excluded the largely rebel-held province of Deir al-Zor — where polio broke out this year — from a 2012 vaccination campaign, arguing that most residents had fled although hundreds of thousands were still there, a Reuters investigation shows,” the news service reports. “Public health researchers say missing out [on] the Syrian province contributed to the reemergence there of polio,” the news service writes, noting the WHO in November confirmed the first outbreak in the country since 1999. “Asked to comment on researchers’ allegations aid groups should have raised the alarm earlier and prepared better, Chris Maher, who is coordinating the regional polio response for the WHO, said it had warned vaccination rates were falling,” according to Reuters.

“Maher said it was reported that 67,000 children under the age of five were subsequently vaccinated in Deir al-Zor in January 2013,” the news service states, adding, “Public health researchers say that is a coverage rate of around 50 percent, insufficient to prevent polio from spreading, based on census data.” Reuters continues, “The WHO says the largest-ever immunization response in the Middle East is under way, aiming to vaccinate more than 23 million children against polio in Syria and neighboring countries,” and “almost two million children in Syria have already been vaccinated, including 600,000 in contested areas of the country, in the first of several rounds” (Holmes, 12/17).