On December 20, 2012, a vaccination tragedy hit the small village of Gouro, located in northern Chad, Africa. According to the newspaper La Voix, out of five hundred children who received the new meningitis vaccine MenAfriVac, at least 40 of them between the ages of 7 and 18 have become paralyzed. Those children also suffered hallucinations and convulsions.
Since this report, the true extent of this tragedy is coming to light, as parents of these vaccinated children have reported yet more injuries. The authorities in the area are shaken, as citizens set fire to a sanitary administration vehicle in a demonstration of their frustration and anger at the government’s negligence.
“We wish that our children would get their health back,” shared the parent of a sick child.
THE MENAFRIVAC VACCINE
MenAfriVac is a new vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India Limited. According to The Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), it is the first vaccine to gain approval to travel outside the cold chain, meaning that the vaccine can be transported without refrigeration or ice packs for up to four days:
“The meningitis A vaccine known as MenAfriVac®, created to meet the needs of Africa’s meningitis belt, can now be kept in a controlled temperature chain (CTC) at temperatures of up to 40°C for up to four days, a decision that could help increase campaign efficiency and coverage and save funds normally spent maintaining the challenging cold chain during the “last mile” of vaccine delivery.” 
The data on the MenAfriVac vaccine is further backed by the World Health Organization’s website  and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website. 
So, why does this information differ vastly from the information given on the manufacturer’s website? Serum Institute of India Ltd. stated under the section marked STORAGE:
“MenAfriVac should be stored and transported between 2-8ºC. Protect from light. The diluent should be stored at 25°C. It is recommended to protect the reconstituted vaccine from direct sunlight. Do not exceed the expiry date stated on the external packaging.” 
THE STORY FROM INSIDE AFRICA
Mr. M., the cousin of two of the vaccine-injured children, who currently remain critically ill and hospitalized, explained that many of the children reacted within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine. He said that at first the children vomited and complained of headaches, before falling to the floor with uncontrollable convulsions while bent over with saliva coming from their mouths.
He shared that on December 26, 2012, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Social Security visited Gouro, bringing with them two Members of Parliament. He said that after some discussion, they decided to evacuate approximately 50 paralyzed children to a hospital over three hundred miles away in N’Djamena, the capital city of Chad.
He added that the government responded to the tragedy by paying the parents money in a desperate bid to silence them, further stating that many of the parents are traumatized and confused.
As reported in La Voix, according to a member of the medical staff, as well as a comment from Dr. Daugla Oumagoum Moto, the director of the Center of International Health Support (CSSI), the reactions that these children have suffered are not typical of this type of vaccine against meningitis, which they say are normally fever, vomiting, and headaches, not the adverse reactions experienced by the hospitalized children.
A HEARTFELT PLEA FOR HELP
Fearing for their children’s present and future health, parents of these vaccine-injured children have begun asking questions, such as:
1. Was this a faulty batch of vaccines?
2. Did the vaccinators inadvertently vaccinate using an unsafe product?
3. Was the product out of refrigeration too long?
4. Were the vaccinators fully trained?
Mr. M. believes the children were left far too long without care and attention. He told me that, despite the state of the vulnerable children and many parents begging for help, the regional authorities failed to respond on time. The children were not seen by the only doctor in the region until a full week after their injuries!
He stated via email:
“In addition, the government and the media have gone silent about the tragedy, while there are still facts requiring clarification whatever contingencies. All this disturbs us and makes us fear the worst effects for the future. For the not knowing of what is going on behind the scenes of the Minister of Health or elsewhere (WHO, UNICEF). As parents our priorities is that how to tell our children, it is very sad that entire city is paralyzed. We are begging our government act quickly as possible to save our children but it is too slow and lack of motivation. Therefore we call assistance for everyone in the world to intervene.” (his exact words from an email)
President Idriss Deby Itno announced at the beginning of the campaign that the vaccine was safe, secure, and would protect citizens against meningitis for ten years. 
Gavi Alliance, a major financial partner in the project, which cost $571 million, stated:
“If all of this works like we think it is going to work, then we are going to eliminate these epidemics. Stop. Period,’ said Marc LaForce, Director of the Meningitis Vaccine Project (MVP), a joint project involving PATH and WHO which developed MenAfriVac in less than ten years.” 
Both of these organizations appear to have been silent since the tragedy.
This tragedy raises many unanswered questions. Why were 500 children vaccinated in a region that has only one doctor, who was unable to provide advice or treatment for adverse events until one week later? Why did the manufacturer of MenAfriVac specifically advise that the product should be stored and transported at much lower temperatures than The Meningitis Project claimed? Why were the parents of these vaccine-injured children paid hush money?
Why are vaccines being pushed so strongly in a country which lacks clean drinking water and basic sanitation services? UNICEF blames Chad’s recurrent outbreaks of disease, including meningitis, on this vital, common-sense need.  Why have major organizations spent $571 million on a vaccination project, when wells to provide access to clean drinking water have been constructed for less than $3,000 by the International Committee of the Red Cross? 
How can at least 40 children become paralyzed after receiving a vaccine, and no news organizations provide coverage of this disturbing situation? The media has gone completely silent. There appear to be no reports of this incident on any government website. The only available information, apart from this one newspaper report, appears to be buried on a small blog titled Le blog de Makaila, which has been reporting regular updates on the situation. 
Where are statements from the involved organizations – WHO, GAVI, PATH, UNICEF and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation? Why has this vaccination program not been suspended? What are these organizations going to do about the atrocity that has happened in Gouro?
[contentbox headline=”References” type=”normal”]
- Wigne, Danzabe and Byakzahbo, Anrde. “Numerous Children of Gouro Hospitalized After a Vaccination Campaign to Control Meningitis.” La Voix.