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Russian Lab Denies It's The Source Of Sheep-Killing Vaccine

Sheep at a Kyrgyz bazaar (file photo)
Sheep at a Kyrgyz bazaar (file photo)
The director of a major Russian laboratory has denied his institute is the source of a smallpox vaccine that is thought to have wiped out thousands of sheep in Central Asia.

Denis Kolbasov, who heads the Research Institute for Veterinary Virology and Microbiology in Russia, says the vaccine in question is a counterfeit that has been mislabeled as his lab's product.

Uzbek and Kyrgyz farmers and officials said on September 24 that thousands of sheep had died in those countries after receiving vaccines that appeared to come from Kolbasov's institution in the town of Pokrov.

Kolbasov said later the same day that his organization had not distributed the vaccine to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan this year, adding that the samples sent to his lab from Uzbekistan looked fake.

He said neither the product's packaging nor its content corresponded to a product from his lab.

Kolbasov added that he was unable to say what caused the mass deaths.

Uzbek farmers and officials say thousands of sheep died in the Qashqadariyo, Samarkand, and Jizakh regions after allegedly receiving a tainted smallpox vaccine.

In Kyrgyzstan, authorities in the southern region of Jalal-Abad were probing the deaths of 1,700 sheep, also following their vaccination for smallpox. Authorities have sealed off Jalal-Abad's Suzaq and Aksy districts to try and limit the chances of the danger spreading.

Based on reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek and Kyrgyz services
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