More than 215,000 children in China were found to have been injected with faulty vaccines during the country’s mandatory vaccination campaign. And though there have been no reports of negative side effects, people are furious over the carelessness of the country’s healthcare system.
The faulty vaccines
The DPT vaccine manufactured by Chinese pharmaceutical company Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, which was tasked with manufacturing the vaccines to be used in the children’s vaccination campaign, was aimed at protecting children from diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus.
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According to the Jilin Provincial Food and Drug Administration, about 253,338 doses of the DPT vaccine manufactured by the company turned out to be faulty. The faulty batch of vaccines was sold off to the Shandong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center, then later used on the children. After news of the incident broke out, the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) ordered the company to immediately halt all production of the vaccines.
Not unexpectedly, the incident caused a huge uproar among Chinese citizens. People have been thrashing the government for exposing children to such health risks. Health authorities have moved swiftly and obtain DPT vaccines from another company for use in the children who were affected.
However, many parents say they have lost trust in the country’s medical system. A concerned parent told the South China Morning Post that he will take his daughter to Hong Kong for future vaccinations: “I [and my family] will not be having any more vaccinations on the mainland until the government takes real and serious steps to resolve this issue.”
The mother of a 6-year-old child who was injected with the faulty vaccine told CNN: “I’m kind of a loss. I have to wait for official conclusions… But this incident… it also made me deeply concerned. It will be really hard to rebuild people’s confidence in our national brands. After all, children are parents’ lifeblood.”
This isn’t the first incident of faulty vaccines in China. Just last November, 400,000 doses of a vaccine manufactured by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products were found to be faulty.
Authorities’ attempts to control reaction to faulty vaccines
The Chinese government has been in overdrive trying to curtail the news and brushing it off as only a minor incident. Articles about the incident on WeChat were severely censored by the government in a bid to keep people under control. However, the hashtag of the “Changsheng Vaccine Case” was viewed more than 680 million times on the Chinese social media website Weibo.
The government also put out official statements promising harsh punishment for the violators so as to keep people pacified. According to The Daily Mail, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced: “[We] must resolutely strike with heavy blows all law-breaking criminal behavior, severely punish the criminals according to the law, and hold accountable those who were negligent in supervision.”
The shares of the parent company of Changsheng Biotechnology have also taken a big hit after investors started selling off the stock. The government is said to have charged Changsheng Biotechnology with approximately US$500,000 in fines.
Authorities who investigated Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology also found that the company had created fake records of product inspection and production reports of their rabies vaccine. Five executives of the company have been taken into police custody for questioning.