Chinese premier vows crackdown in latest vaccine scare

Chinese premier vows crackdown in latest vaccine scare

A major drug producer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology has been found to have produced 250,000 faulty vaccines administered to Chinese children, leading to widespread anger from parents and condemnation from the ruling Communist Party. "I don't know whether or not to let him", said another.

Changsheng said in a regulatory filing that the suspension of its rabies vaccine production would have a significant impact on its finances and that some regional disease control agencies had suspended some of its other vaccines.

According to Human Rights Watch, two lawyers - Tang Jingling and Yu Wensheng - who represented parents in vaccine scandals dating to 2006 and 2009 are both still in prison after being jailed for "subversion".

The regulator ordered it to halt production and recall all its vaccines, the company said in a statement.

It is not known how many children have received the vaccine, but there have not been any reports of children falling ill after receiving the inoculation.

Numerous defective vaccines were already on the market and given to Chinese children as part of a mandatory vaccination program.

Details of the fake DPT vaccines sold by the same company last November emerged during investigations into the rabies vaccine, indicating that the matter was hushed up. Authorities have also announced that they are launching an official criminal investigation into the company.

Shares in Chinese vaccine-makers and biotech firms fell across the board yesterday after Premier Li Keqiang slammed Changsheng Biotechnology for having crossed a moral red line and called for swift action.

The announcement came after authorities carried out a snap inspection and found the company forging production data and violating the country's drug production quality management protocols.

"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 criticise dereliction of duty in supervision", he said in a statement posted on a government website. An apology has been issued by the company, but that will not so easily turn around the fall in its share price.

The scandal has prompted speculation that mainland Chinese would take their children outside mainland China for vaccines as has happened with previous scandals, which could lead to a shortage in Chinese-controlled regions like Hong Kong or Macau. 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 state-run China Daily called on the government to be "transparent" in handing the scandal.

The state-run Global Times newspaper questioned in an editorial yesterday how dodgy vaccines were still being produced following the harsh lessons of the past.

In 2008, about 300,000 Chinese infants became sick after drinking tainted milk formula, triggering a countrywide rush to buy internationally-produced baby products in Hong Kong and overseas.

The FDA said the problem was linked to a change in the manufacturing process in China - and that the impurity may have gone undetected for "as long as four years".

The scandals have cast an ugly blight on China's public vaccination system, which has previously been credited with cutting the number of polio, hepatitis B and tetanus cases.