By Cassi Kirkland
The World Health Organization has confirmed the first outbreak of polio in Syria in 14 years. Thought to be eradicated in the region, polio’s return to Middle Eastern countries is troubling for children. Polio mainly affects children under five, leading to paralysis and sometimes death. Although the World Health Organization began a polio eradication campaign 25 years ago, polio often finds its way into vulnerable populations.
Due to the civil war, many children have gone without these vaccinations in Syria. However, Syrian officials have been open to working with the WHO on this issue, in order to stop the spread of such a debilitating disease. The campaign calls for the vaccination of over 20 million children throughout the Middle East, which will prove extremely difficult in war-stricken areas.
Perhaps the bigger issue will be finding officials to enter Syria at such a chaotic time to deliver these vaccines. Will the conflicts halt for the children of their country, or will these officials risk their lives to eradicate the outbreak? The key in stopping this outbreak is efficiency, but is that sort of massive coordination possible in an country where the government doesn’t hold full control?
Polio’s return to Syria and the rest of the Middle East raises some important ethical questions, ones that medicine and science cannot ignore. Sure, scientific research is objective, but we are responsible for using it ethically. It would be easy to ignore the outbreaks as not to risk the lives of people giving the vaccinations, be we cannot. Our ability to understand these diseases through research holds us responsible for eradicating these diseases.So, let the planning for over 50 million vaccinations begin!
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