Hundreds of thousands of vaccines provided for Chinese children have been found to be faulty, inciting widespread fury and prompting the country’s President, Xi Jinping, to describe the incident as “vile and shocking.”
China’s Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has launched an investigation into vaccine manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, revoking its license for human rabies vaccines and beginning a recall of all unused vaccines produced by the company.
Five senior executives of the company, including the chairwoman, were taken into custody for questioning by Changchun police, who announced they had begun an official criminal investigation into the company.
In Chinese, the term Changsheng is a play on words meaning “long life.”
Online message boards have been inundated with hundreds of thousands of comments since the news broke Sunday, with parents and consumers using the hashtag “#Changsheng bio-tech vaccine incident,” to post reactions on Weibo, a Chinese platform likened to Twitter.
“My home country, how can I trust you? You just let me down again and again,” one user said. “Our trust has been overdrawn again and again, it’s so irresponsible for everyone’s life,” said another.
Many of the defective vaccines were already on the market and being given to Chinese children, as part of the mandatory national vaccination program. A number have now been recalled, but there is no information at this stage as to how they could affect the health of those children who have already been injected.
One mother, surnamed Zhen from Baoding, Hebei province, told CNN she had found out since the announcement her six-year-old daughter was vaccinated with a Changsheng product.
“I’m kind of at loss. I have to wait for official conclusions,” she said over Wechat. Zhen said she’d been supportive of products made in China, unlike a number of her contemporaries who “worship” foreign products. “But this incident … it also made me deeply concerned. It will be really hard to rebuild people’s confidence in our national brands. After all, children are parents’ lifeblood,” she said.
At least two different vaccines — rabies, and diphtheria and tetanus (DPT) — manufactured by Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology are known to be defective.
State-run Xinhua news agency reports that at least 113,000 doses of the company’s rabies vaccine are affected.
In a statement, the Jilin Provincial Food and Drug Administration said a total of 253,338 doses of Changsheng’s DPT vaccine were faulty. This batch was sold to the Shandong Provincial Disease Prevention and Control Center.
It follows an earlier incident, in November 2017, when at least another 400,000 doses of the same vaccine, produced by a different, second company, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, were found to be substandard.