Chinese Premier Calls for Severe Punishment in Vaccine Scandal


Last week, the China Food and Drug Administration said Changsheng had doctored production and product inspection records for a rabies vaccine.

"We don't know who we can believe in", Huo Xiaoling said.

Changsheng has been found to have faked production documents related to a rabies vaccine that is given to babies as young as three months, underscoring the difficulties China faces in cleaning up the image of the world's second-biggest drug industry as it aims to promote its vaccines globally.

"On WeChat, the country's most popular messaging service, the Chinese word for vaccine appeared in 321 million articles and searches, 80 times the number of times it appeared on Friday". More than 250,000 of these faulty vaccines were reportedly sold in Shandong province.

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.

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Health authorities have arranged for all 215,184 children affected to receive qualified vaccines made by other companies, with 97 already completed the procedure, according to China Daily. It's also unclear how many Chinese children received these vaccines and what sort of impact it could have on their health. A surprise inspection also discovered that the company forged the data of about 113,000 rabies vaccine.

The Chinese biologics manufacturer at the center of a vaccine scandal said its chairman was taken away by the police, signaling the government is intensifying its crackdown on wrongdoing in the industry.

Eight provinces or cities immediately announced they would be stopping or suspending the use of human rabies vaccine from Changsheng, while another four claimed they had never used it.

Shares in Chinese vaccine makers and biotech firms fell across the board on Monday after the country's Premier Li Keqiang had slammed the vaccine maker for having crossed a moral red line and called for swift action.

Authorities have ordered all production stopped at Changsheng and a massive vaccine recall.

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"(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", Li said in a statement posted late Sunday on the government's website. An apology has been issued by the company, but that will not so easily turn around the fall in its share price.

Amid a series of scandals that involve tainted food and drugs produced in China, parents call on the government to take more severe action. The company was fined 2.58 million yuan ($282,000), and assets worth 859,000 yuan from the sales of the vaccine were confiscated.

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.

In 2013, 17 children died after they were given a hepatitis B vaccine produced by Shenzhen Kangtai Biological Products Co.

"The Changsheng vaccine case has created a tsunami on the internet", the state-run Global Times newspaper said in an editorial late on Monday, adding it was unrealistic to try and completely control it, though it could not be left unchecked.

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"The main problem is insufficient regulation, missing regulation, powerless regulation", Yang wrote.