A Chinese vaccine maker reportedly produced faulty vaccines that were given to hundreds of thousands of children, sparking outrage and forcing authorities to call for a crackdown on the vaccine industry.
Vaccine maker Changsheng Biotechnology Co reportedly faked production documents for its rabies vaccines which are routinely given to babies as young as three months.
At first, it was reported the company had fabricated production records as well as product inspection records, and arbitrarily changed process parameters and equipment.
It was later revealed by the country’s State Drug Administration (SDA) in the northeastern province of Jilin, where Changsheng is based, that the company had violated standards in making the 2017 vaccine batch of diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough.
The drug maker further sold the 252,600 faulty vaccines to the Shandong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center which were later injected into thousands of children across the country under the mandatory national vaccination program.
Although there have not been any reports of the harm caused by the vaccines as yet, authorities ordered the major drug producer to immediately halt all its production and instructed officials to seize all unused vaccines.
A criminal investigation into the incident was launched and as a result, the chairwoman of the drug maker, along with four other executives of the company was taken into custody.
China’s top leadership condemned the revelations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said Changsheng’s actions were “shocking” and that authorities should deal with the matter swiftly.
Similarly, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the incident had "crossed a moral line.”
“We will resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that endanger the safety of peoples' lives, resolutely punish lawbreakers according to the law, and resolutely and severely criticize dereliction of duty in supervision,” a statement on his website read.
On the other hand, Changsheng has apologized for its actions and said the company was guilty and embarrassed.
The revelations sparked a fury among parents and a storm on social media.
“We always say that kids are the nation’s future, but if we can’t ensure the safety of such a future, what does the future hold for us?” said Huo Xiaoling, 37, a mother whose daughter received the faulty vaccine.
“We don’t know who we can believe in. As Chinese, we probably should have confidence in our country, but getting hurt again and again has made us lose faith,” she added.
Another concerned parent wrote on China’s micro-blogging website Wiebo, “Thousands of mothers around the country are worried. Over 200,000 children could be affected. What kind of society am I living in?”
The incident comes at a time when the country was struggling to restore to faith in public after a series of substandard drugs scandals emerged.
It was recently discovered that a common blood pressure and heart drug manufactured in bulk by Chinese firm Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical may have contained an impurity linked to cancer since 2012.
In 2016, Chinese police busted a gang for selling around $90 million worth of illegal vaccines on the black market.
The recent faulty vaccine incident has once again rattled public’s confidence in the country’s leadership and revealed how to the country’s pharmaceutical industry is playing with the lives of thousands of people.
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