Published: Wed, July 25, 2018
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Chinese leaders order probe over vaccine scandal

Chinese leaders order probe over vaccine scandal

Regulators announced last week that Changchun Changsheng, China's second-largest rabies vaccine manufacturer, was ordered to stop production and recall its rabies vaccine. "We are anxious about the quality of domestic vaccines", said Yin, who said she had spent HK$5,000 ($640) on the inoculations: PCV13 which protects against pneumococcal bacteria, Japanese encephalitis and the ACWY vaccination to protect against meningitis.

On July 15, the government had found that the same company had fabricated production data and inspection records of its freeze-dried human rabies vaccine. The Dpt vaccine is given to newborn babies across the country. There have been no reports of the vaccines being harmful to patients, however.

The company said in a stock exchange filing Sunday that it had already halted production of another vaccine - for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis - which regulators found a year ago to be sub-standard and which had also become the focus of public attention.

So far, there have been no reports of children falling ill after taking the vaccines.

"Defective vaccines are like child abuse and trafficking - it touches on the most sensitive, vulnerable part of the public's hearts", wrote Xi Po, a columnist for The Paper, a popular online news outlet backed by the Shanghai government.

Chinese authorities also failed eight batches of a vaccine produced by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company, for low quality standards previous year.

The Global Times newspaper reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has instructed authorities to dispatch teams to immediately investigate "the entire product chain" of all vaccines, vowing "severe punishment" and zero tolerance for anybody involved in the scandal.

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However, in addition to the rabies vaccines, the country's regulator found that the company had sold "substandard" ADPT (adsorbed diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus) vaccines.

Also on Monday, police in Changchun, Jilin province, where the company is based, announced that they have arrested four company executives, including Chairwoman Gao Junfang.

'(We) must resolutely strike with heavy blows all law-breaking criminal behaviour, severely punish the criminals according to the law, and hold accountable those who were negligent in supervision, ' Mr Li said in a statement posted late Sunday on the government's website.

In a stock exchange statement on Sunday, the company said its suspension of rabies vaccine production would have a significant impact on its finances and that some regional disease control agencies had suspended some of its other vaccines.

The scandal has prompted speculation that mainland Chinese would take their children outside mainland China for vaccines as has happened with previous scandals, which could lead to a shortage in Chinese-controlled regions like Hong Kong or Macau.

For their mistake, Changsheng was fined 3,442,887 yuan ($507,843) by the Chinese government. "How am I supposed to raise a healthy child if I can not give them vaccines or let them drink milk?" writes another netizen.

As public outrage over the scandal snowballed this week, political leadership in Beijing, eager to maintain confidence in China's vaccine industry, has responded with sharp condemnation of the firm and calls for swift punishment. Other activists and parents have also been harassed and detained by the authorities, and had their attempts to gain compensation stymied.

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