Health & Science: Hundreds of Thousands of Children Given Fake Vaccines in China

Outrage in China over thousands of faulty vaccines for children

Hundreds of thousands of vaccines provided for Chinese children have been found to be faulty, inciting widespread fury and prompting the country's President, Xi Jinping, to describe the incident as "vile and shocking."

China's Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has launched an investigation into vaccine manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, revoking its license for human rabies vaccines and beginning a recall of all unused vaccines produced by the company.

Five senior executives of the company, including the chairwoman, were taken into custody for questioning by Changchun police, who announced they had begun an official criminal investigation into the company.

In Chinese, the term Changsheng is a play on words meaning "long life."

Online message boards have been inundated with hundreds of thousands of comments since the news broke Sunday, with parents and consumers using the hashtag "#Changsheng bio-tech vaccine incident," to post reactions on Weibo, a Chinese platform likened to Twitter.

"My home country, how can I trust you? You just let me down again and again," one user said. "Our trust has been overdrawn again and again, it's so irresponsible for everyone's life," said another.

Many of the defective vaccines were already on the market and being given to Chinese children, as part of the mandatory national vaccination program. A number have now been recalled, but there is no information at this stage as to how they could affect the health of those children who have already been injected.

One mother, surnamed Zhen from Baoding, Hebei province, told CNN she had found out since the announcement her six-year-old daughter was vaccinated with a Changsheng product.

"I'm kind of at loss. I have to wait for official conclusions," she said over Wechat.

Zhen said she'd been supportive of products made in China, unlike a number of her contemporaries who "worship" foreign products.

"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," she said.


China: Hundreds of thousands of children given fake vaccines

Hundreds of thousands of children in China may have been given fabricated vaccines produced by China's second-largest pharmaceutical company.

Health regulators found that the drug maker violated safety standards.

It is the second scandal to hit the company in the past week.

Al Jazeera's Adrian Brown reports from Beijing.

Click to watch video:

Hundreds of thousands of fake vaccinations given to Chinese children

Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, a Chinese vaccine manufacturer, gave hundreds of thousands of defective vaccine doses to children as part of mandatory vaccination protocols in China, reports CNN.

The big picture: The Chinese government is walking the line between reforming its health care system and rapidly increasing access to care. "[A]uthorities are understandably keen to open the floodgates in terms of patient access to more affordable treatment," but making sure thousands of local drugmakers are following safety regulations is tough, Sophie Cairns, an Asia-Pacific health care analyst at IHS Markit, tells Axios.

The details:

  • At least 113,000 doses of the company's rabies vaccine are faulty, Chinese state media Xinhua reports.

  • An additional 253,338 doses of diphtheria and tetanus vaccine sold to the Shandong province are defective, per authorities.

  • The doses known to be faulty have been recalled, but it's not yet clear how they will affect the children who already received them.

  • There's a trend here. In November 2017, 400,000 doses of diphtheria and tetanus vaccine produced by the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products were faulty.

The latest:

  • "Those involved will be resolutely punished with zero tolerance," the Chinese government said in a statement. CNN reports that five senior executives of Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology — including the chairwoman — have been taken in for questioning.

  • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the company "broke people's moral bottom line."

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping called the issue "vile and shocking" and directed local authorities to "scrape the poison off the bone" as they investigate the incident.

  • Yes, but: "This issue cannot be addressed overnight," says Cairns. It requires the government to recruit and train scores of regulators.

The bottom line: "Accountability beyond local scapegoats is usually lacking in China unless there is a political aspect to the problem. Li Keqiang has been Premier for 64+ months, with oversight of the health system, and he looks particularly ineffective in this case," Axios contributor Bill Bishop writes in his Sinocism newsletter.


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