The State Council of China announced that another batch of vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) that were produced by the firm Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, were considered "substandard.” Most of the doses were sold to authorities in the Shandong province in northeastern China, and some have already been given to children.
The latest batch of 247,200 vaccines joins the 253,338 defective DPT vaccines from the same company that were discovered last November, along with more than 400,000 produced by a different company.
According to the South China Morning Post, 76 percent of those children who were given injections from the first substandard batch have already been treated by doctors, and there are now plans in place to treat those who received injections from the second batch.
Although the Chinese government has done its best to prevent people from talking about the crisis, Chinese social media is still full of conversation about the topic. There have also been reports that the company used expired ingredients and altered testing records.
Last month, thousands of enraged parents expressed their anger and disappointment that their country has let them down when it comes to their handling of vaccines. The Chinese president promised swift action and a prompt investigation, yet the problem continues.
Critics have accused the government of being more concerned about saving face than making things right with the children who were subjected to the faulty vaccines. In the Nikkei Asian Review, Yanzhong Huang writes:
“Officials have reportedly restricted news coverage and censors have swiftly scrubbed away widely shared essays and posts criticizing the government or spreading bad news. Even news reports from state-owned publications, such as an investigation into Wuhan Institute’s substandard vaccines by the newspaper Economic Observer, have been taken down.”
He called for Beijing to improve vaccine safety and for the public and the press to get involved in exposing violators. He said that whistleblowers should be viewed as heroes rather than troublemakers.
Some Changsheng Biotechnology personnel have already been arrested in connection with the problem. Chairwoman Gao Junfang, who is also known as the “Vaccine Queen” and considered one of China’s wealthiest women, is among the 18 people who have been arrested so far. The mayor of the drug manufacturer’s home city, Changchun, has also been arrested, along with the deputy governor of the Jilin province where the company is located and the national drug regulator’s deputy director.
It’s not just the Chinese government that is trying to keep the scandal quiet; many American mainstream news outlets are also ignoring the situation or keeping their coverage to a minimum, which isn’t surprising given their general reluctance to report on anything that could cast the vaccine industry in a negative light.
There isn’t any word on injuries caused by the vaccines, but vaccines have been impounded and production has been suspended. There has also been a recall of vaccine products from foreign markets, but details are scarce.
Chinese parents had already lost a great degree of confidence in the government after a scandal a few years ago in which children were disabled and even killed by vaccines that were ruined after they had been transported and stored improperly. This latest incident won’t do much to restore their faith.
Sources for this article include: