The deaths of 17 infants across nine different provinces were not caused by hepatitis B vaccines as initially feared, according to health officials.
Although authorities await a final verdict on eight of the fatalities, the National Health and Family Planning Commission says its investigations show no link between the deaths and the government’s inoculation program. Initial reports from the state news agency Xinhua had suggested that the babies had all died after receiving the shot.
But while the drug manufacturer at the center of initial accusations, BioKangtai, has been cleared of responsibility thus far, the investigation has led to a suspension of production at the Shenzhen-based firm. Along with two further drug suppliers, including Beijing Tiantan Biological Products, manufacturing was halted due to a failure to meet guidelines introduced in the new year.
This latest alarm came in the wake of previous reported incidents of injections for hepatitis B, encephalitis, and other illnesses leading to serious health problems as a result of improper drug storage.
But an official statement cites a variety of unrelated causes for the deaths, including sudden infant death and congenital heart disease. The health watchdog also claims that only two of the children, all of whom were aged under 5, had been injected with the batch of vaccines under investigation.
According to Global Times, the three suspended drug producers collectively account for 80 per cent of hepatitis B vaccines produced in the country. The details of the companies’ breaches of regulation were not disclosed, although the China Food and Drug Administration confirmed that all three will be able to resume production once they meet the newly-introduced industry standards.
Image courtesy of Iwasere (Flickr)