The Chinese government has launched an investigation following a massive public outcry over the violation of drug production regulations in vaccines meant for children.
“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 criticize dereliction of duty in supervision,” Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a statement and promised to carry out an investigation.
The Premier’s statement comes against the backdrop of growing nationwide outrage after reports emerged last Friday that Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology had sold some 252,600 substandard DPT vaccines to the Disease Prevention and Control Centre of Shandong Province, which has a population of around 10 crore.
The DPT vaccine is taken against infectious diseases like diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough and were to be given to children under a compulsory state-run health programme.
On July 15, the same company had been accused by China’s State Drug Administration (SDA) of fabricating production data and product inspection records of its freeze-dried human rabies vaccine. The government had subsequently revoked the company’s licence to produce the rabies vaccine and had recalled the rabies vaccine.
The news of even the DPT vaccine of the company being substandard had created an outrage on Chinese social media platforms. Government controlled newspapers too have been critical about how the pharmaceutical industry as being regulated.
“People do not understand why the country had not prevented a substandard vaccine from being produced in the first place. Amid insufficient authoritative information, many may believe that it is lax supervision and light punishment that led to multiple scandals created by companies like Changchun Changsheng,” Global Times said in an editorial published on Monday.
While the vaccines, according to the Chinese authorities, were deemed to be ineffective, there have so far been no reports of children falling ill after taking them.
Meanwhile, the company has been fined 3.4 Mn yuan (USD 510000). In a statement, the company has apologized saying it was “guilty and embarrassed”. It has also made regulatory disclosure at the exchanges stating that it was being investigated due to suspected violation of information disclosure and faces the risk of being delisted.
Following the public outcry, Premier Li Keqiang in a statement released late on Sunday said that vaccine case has crossed a moral line, and the nation deserves a clear explanation. “The State Council should immediately send a group to investigate to uncover the truth as soon as possible, and any wrongdoing will be severely punished regardless of who is involved,” Li said.
Over the last few years, China has seen a number of incidents involving food and medicine safety.