“Measles vaccine kills 3 more kids,” reports The Nation, a leading Pakistani daily, bringing the number of deaths to six since an anti-measles vaccination campaign began April 13 in Balochistan province. Other children are in critical condition. Parents report that the children, who had been healthy, fell ill shortly after receiving the vaccine.
The deaths, widely covered in the media throughout Pakistan, are being blamed on substandard vaccines as well as on underlying health problems in the children, such as stomach disorders.
The Balochistan Minister of Health, insisting that the vaccination program was responsibly carried out and that the vaccines weren’t defective, has established a committee to investigate the deaths. The committee is headed by his Additional Secretary of Health and will include officials from Unicef and the World Health Organization, calling into question the committee’s objectivity. Unicef and the World Health Organization, along with the GAVI Alliance, founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have spearheaded the Balochistan vaccination program.
The deaths have also led to political finger pointing within Pakistan. While the provincial health ministry argues that the vaccination campaign is a success, with over one million safely vaccinated, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, has ordered the arrest of “the culprits” responsible.