ALEPPO, Syria, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- At least 36 children are dead after receiving tainted measles vaccines at U.N. clinics Monday night in the rebel-held region of Syria.
The children were injected with the vaccines before quickly falling ill and dying in what was described as an "excruciating" manner. The program has been shut down since rumors of sabotage spread throughout the country to prevent the worsening of the civil war's death toll from the outbreak of measles.
"It's very bad. The figures of dead we are getting go into the 30s. Children are dying very quickly," Daher Zidan, the coordinator of the medical charity Uossm, told The Telegraph. "We think it will get worse."
Health experts say it was likely a contaminated batch of vaccines and a major setback to an effort praised by the World Health Organization (WHO) to vaccinate 1.6 million children.
Local governments are investigating the incident to find out how the two batches were tainted.