China’s Xi Jinping wields axe over vaccine scandal: 40 officials sacked

0
1062

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the sacking of up to 40 officials over the distribution of dodgy and expired vaccines to hundreds of thousands of children — the country’s worst public health scandal in years.

Mr Xi presided over a meeting of the standing committee of the political bureau of the communist party that punished local and national bureaucrats for the poor oversight of operations at Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology Company in northeast Jilin province.

The State Council — the Chinese cabinet — also said it would seize all “illegal gains” made by Changsheng Bio-Tech.

China’s second largest producer of vaccines, Changsheng Bio-tech cut costs by using expired materials to make rabies and other vaccines and faked the results of tests.

It’s estimated the company produced almost half a million substandard vaccines for rabies, and diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus, which were given to hundreds of thousands of babies.

While no one died as a result of the company’s actions — unlike the tainted milk and infant formula scandal of 2008 — the latest scandal has shaken public confidence in the public health system and led to increasing criticism of the government.

In its first meeting since leaders returned from their annual retreat to the seaside resort of Beidaihe, the seven-member standing committee ordered the sacking of the Jilin vice governor of Jilin, who oversaw food and drug administration, Changchun mayor Liu Changlong and the deputy director of the State Market Regulatory Administration in Beijing, Bi Jingquan.

Bio-Tech chairwoman Gao Junfang has been arrested.
Bio-Tech chairwoman Gao Junfang has been arrested.

State Food and Drug Administration former deputy head Wu Zhen is under investigation “on suspicion of serious violation of party disciplinary rules” by the anti-corruption National Supervisory Commission.

A statement released from the meeting said Mr Xi attached great importance to the case, which would require a thorough investigation and severe punishment for those held accountable.

“Vaccines are something that concerns public health and ­national security,” it said.

“The case is a serious offence, in which the vaccine producer violated the law and relevant standards and regulations in pursuit of profits and fabricated false production inspection records.

“A number of local government and supervisory departments were found in dereliction of duty.”

It said the case exposed “institutional defects” in the production, circulation and use of vaccines.

Chinese police said this week they would prosecute Changsheng Bio-Tech chairwoman Gao Junfang, and another 17 people who were arrested when the scandal emerged last month.

The 64-year-old Ms Gao, who was born in rural China, is one of the biggest shareholders in Changsheng Bio-Tech and has a fortune estimated to be as much as $US1 billion ($1.4bn) by Forbes magazine.

The government also announced that it would be revaccinating the babies who were given substandard vaccines.

The scandal evoked memories of 10 years ago when six babies died and more than 50,000 were hospitalised when a company used the chemical melamine in powdered milk. That created a deep distrust of locally made health products and increased demand for foreign- made health and food products.

The latest scandal has further undermined public confidence in the oversight of the local drug market and fuelled concerns about corruption in some sectors of public administration, despite Mr Xi’s crackdown.

This week’s action has been criticised by some for being too little too late and filing to address concerns of similar breaches at a state-owned company.

By GLENDA KORPORAAL
The Australian

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here