News / Asia

    Vaccine Scandal in China Sparks Public Outcry

    FILE - A Chinese nurse inoculates a man at a hospital  in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, Nov. 10, 2009. China has vowed to tighten its regulation of locally-made vaccines to ensure their usefulness, after a recent scandal exposed regulatory loopholes.
    FILE - A Chinese nurse inoculates a man at a hospital in Hefei, east China's Anhui province, Nov. 10, 2009. China has vowed to tighten its regulation of locally-made vaccines to ensure their usefulness, after a recent scandal exposed regulatory loopholes.

    China has vowed to tighten its regulation of locally-made vaccines to ensure their usefulness, after a recent scandal exposed regulatory loopholes.
     
    The scandal involved the illegal sale of $47.6 million worth of improperly-refrigerated vaccines, which might have been administered to millions of children in 24 Chinese provinces since 2011, according to the country’s food and drug watchdog.
     
    Authorities have filed 69 criminal cases against the alleged drug ring and the police have arrested more than 130 suspects, including the mastermind, a woman surnamed Pang from the northeastern province of Shandong.
     
    Pang had been convicted for similar crimes, but was given a suspended sentence, which allowed her to re-offend, according to the nation’s top prescription drug regulator.
     
    Regulatory weakness

    Li Guoqing, head of the nation’s Food and Drug Administration told a news conference late Thursday that the tainted vaccines, including those used to prevent meningitis, rabies and other diseases, were legitimate, although they might have lost their potency after being stored improperly.

    FILE - A Chinese boy screams out in pain as he gets inoculated against measles as part of a free 10-day nationwide campaign to urge parents to participate amid public fears about the safety of the inoculations in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province on Sept. 11, 2010.
    FILE - A Chinese boy screams out in pain as he gets inoculated against measles as part of a free 10-day nationwide campaign to urge parents to participate amid public fears about the safety of the inoculations in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province on Sept. 11, 2010.

    “A huge amount of vaccines had been circulated through illegal channels for such a long time, which the regulator had failed to uncover soon. This means that certain loopholes do exist in our regulatory work,” he said.

    Li has vowed to close the loopholes, but failed to elaborate how his administration plans to tackle the challenge of not having enough people to do its job.
     
    He added his organization is equipped with fewer than 500 certified drug inspectors to oversee the nation’s more than 5,000 vaccine makers, 400,000 retailers and 200,000 inoculation units.
     
    “The regulator has put less of its strength on the transportation and storage [of vaccines] than that on their production. That has created room for irregularities,” said Wang Yuedan, deputy director of Peking University's immunology department.
     
    “But I expect the regulation to toughen up after the incident,” the professor said, urging the government to facilitate an electronic identification system for end users to reconfirm the safety of their own vaccines before administering.

    FILE - Residents queue up for their vaccine shots at a local hospital in Yuncheng, in northern China's Shanxi province.
    FILE - Residents queue up for their vaccine shots at a local hospital in Yuncheng, in northern China's Shanxi province.

    According to the regulator, the future distribution of such discretionary vaccines will be included and monitored under the provincial platform, where mandatory vaccines are distributed with transparency before they are administered free-of-charge.
     
    Minimal safety risk
     
    Wang also agreed with the assurances made by Li, who said the tainted vaccines should have posed minimal risk to the receivers, citing information from the World Health Organization (WHO).
     
    On Tuesday, WHO released a statement saying “[an] improperly stored or expired vaccine seldom, if ever, causes a toxic relation — therefore there is likely to be minimal safety risk in this particular situation. Rather, the risk to children from administering expired or improperly stored vaccine is lack of protection from the disease for which the vaccine was intended,” the statement added.

    Wang urged the government to fully track the whereabouts of tainted vaccine soon, so that parents can continue to protect their children from vaccine preventable diseases.
     
    Public outcry
     
    Already, the scandal has reawakened longstanding concerns among the public over the safety of food and medicine in China.
     
    One angry Weibo user called the government a “bastard” after the regulator appeared to show complacency about the fact that most tainted vaccines were administered to people in remote agricultural villages.
     
    Another mother from Fujian province expressed her worries, writing “my one-year-old was just given a shot of vaccine… I’m so troubled.”

    Chinese parents queue up to get their children inoculated against measles as part of a free 10-day nationwide campaign to urge parents to participate amid public fears about the safety of the inoculations in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province on Sept. 11, 2010.
    Chinese parents queue up to get their children inoculated against measles as part of a free 10-day nationwide campaign to urge parents to participate amid public fears about the safety of the inoculations in Hefei, in eastern China's Anhui province on Sept. 11, 2010.

    Many others were reminded of the government’s tendency to cover up such issues.

    Weibo user Chen Youxi said two journalists, Bao Yueyang and Wang Keqin from the China Economic Times, were removed from their jobs in 2010 after they exposed how a major failure to refrigerate vaccine had caused the death of four children and sickened 74 others in Shanxi province.
     
    “In 2016, the [truth about the] vaccines has finally prevailed. China, when will you wake up?” he asked.
     
    Moreover, on the freeweibo.com, the scandal has become the top-trending censored topic.
     
    One user posted a scanned picture of the front-page headline of the Beijing Evening News from late 2014, which read “Our [Communist] Party rules China. If it continues to do poorly in food safety, many will question whether it is qualified to rule.”

    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora