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Boxes of single-doses vials of the measles-mumps-rubella virus vaccine live, or MMR vaccine and ProQuad vaccine are kept frozen inside a freezer at the practice of Dr. Charles Goodman in Northridge, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Some doctors are adamant about not accepting patients who don't believe in vaccinations, with some saying they don't want to be responsible for someone's death from an illness that was preventable. Others warn that refusing treatment to such people will just send them into the arms of quacks. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

15 children died in a botched measles vaccine campaign in South Sudan


Fifteen children died in a botched measles vaccination campaign, South Sudan's government announced Friday. 

During the four-day campaign in early May, those as young as 12 years old administered the contaminated vaccine using a single syringe. Health officials said the vaccine also wasn't refrigerated during that period of time. 

The United Nations said the children died of “severe sepsis/toxicity” and the country's health ministry blamed the deaths on human error. 

The government is setting up a commission to determine who is responsible and whether the families of the children, who were all under the age of 5, will receive any compensation. 

The poor East African nation has already been devastated by a civil war and recently declared a famine and cholera outbreak. The vaccination campaign aimed to prevent measles from spreading to more than 2 million children across the country. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF released a joint statement saying another 32 children suffered side effects after receiving the botched vaccine. 

After WHO was notified of the deaths in the rural town of Kapoeta, the organization suspended its campaign in that area but continued administering vaccines across the country. 

The WHO provides training for the country's health officials and UNICEF provides the vaccines to the government.

 It still remains unclear whether any UNICEF officials were present when the botched vaccines were administered. Both organizations, however, said those who administered the vaccines in Kapoeta were “neither qualified nor trained." 

The United Nations said the risk of contracting measles in South Sudan remains "extremely high." 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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