Chinese social media have responded with outrage and fury after a Jilin-based pharmaceutical company was found to have produced and sold hundreds of thousands of substandard vaccines.
Changchun Changsheng Bio-tech Co, China’s second-largest vaccine producer, was accused of selling 252,600 doses of substandard DPT (百白破 bǎi bái pò), a vaccine for preventing diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, after a nine-month investigation by the Changchun drug administration.
The faulty vaccines (numbered 201605014-01) have been distributed to eight cities—Jinan, Zibo, Yantai, Jining, Tai’an, Weihai, Rizhao, and Laiwu in Shandong province. Registration records from Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Shandong reveal that 215,184 children in this province have been injected with the vaccine, though the authority immediately forced a halt to the use of the vaccine at the beginning of the investigation last November, says a report from state-run media The Paper.
The company was also fined RMB 2.58 million, and RMB 859,000 in assets from sales of the vaccine were confiscated.
The scandal came days after the State Drug Administration (SDA) reprimanded Changchun Changsheng for fabricating production records for freeze-dried rabies vaccines, after Changchun police launched a thorough investigation into the company on July 15. SDA has since ordered the company to stop producing rabies vaccines, and revoked the company’s certificate for production and sales. Changchun police launched a thorough investigation into the company, with top officials being detained.
Changchun Changsheng is not the only vaccine producer involved in the scandal. In November 2017 as many as 400,520 doses of the DPT vaccine (numbered 201607050-2) produced by Wuhan Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd. also were found to fail to meet the national standard, of which 210,000 were distributed to Hebei and the rest to Chongqing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Hebei said that 143,941 children in Shijiazhuang, Langfang, and Dingzhou have been given the substandard DPT vaccine, while no details have been provided by the Chongqing municipal government as yet.
Over the past couple of days, prominent international hospitals across Beijing have made vaccine safety statements affirming that none of these faulty vaccines have been acquired within the capital. They have also stated that vaccines are procured by the Beijing Municipal Government and distributed by the Chaoyang Center for Disease Control, and that everyone should be assured of the quality and safety standards of this establishment.
Statements like this have done little to ease the worries of parents, as this scandal involving Changchun Changsheng is the third occurrence in just three years, following Wuhan Institute of Biological Products’ faulty DPT in 2017 (mentioned above), and the discovery of illegal vaccine delivery rings in 2016.
Here are answers to some of the top concerns of parents:
- How can I find out whether my child has received a substandard vaccine or not?
The vaccine booklet keeps a record of vaccine details including date given, dose, specification, and manufacturing number (supervision code), check if the manufacturing number is either 201605014-01 or 201607050-2. The manufacturing number usually includes the name of the vaccine-production company; Changchun Changsheng (长春长生) is shortened to Changsheng (长生) in this situation. (See example below)
- What harm will a substandard vaccine do to kids?
According to the previous spokesperson from the State Bureau of Supervision of Food and Drugs, the use of a substandard DPT vaccine “doesn’t pose a safety threat to people’s health, but will reduce the expected immune effects.”
- For those children who have been injected with substandard vaccines, what should parents do?
According to the Shandong Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 208,579 children have been re-administered the DPT vaccine injection so far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Hebei and Chongqing said they would vaccinate those affected again. Whether or not those affected children need to redo the DPT vaccine depends on the analysis which is currently being carried out by the local drug administration, according to the State Center of Disease Prevention and Control.
- Besides the rabies vaccine and DPT vaccine, are other vaccines produced by Changchun Changsheng safe?
The State Drug Administration confirmed that the company’s other vaccines that are currently available on the market have been tested and no quality problems were found. The administration also launched further tests on the vaccine samples kept by the company.
Though the authority has pledged to conduct unannounced inspections on all companies that produce vaccines and implement stricter regulations, it seems that this belated action will do little to cool down people’s outrage towards the fact that children have been injected with defective vaccines, with some commenting that they will never again trust any that are domestically produced. One parent named Peng Yubin told CNN that he was thinking of getting his child injected with foreign vaccines. “Even though they are more expensive, they are better,” he said.
“The main reason [for this crisis]is slack regulation,” commentator Yang Yuze was quoted in an article found on Sixth Tone. Yang said that “the government has coddled domestic vaccine companies for too long in an effort to help them grow stronger. But instead of achieving this goal, such companies are becoming more profit-driven.”