China’s vaccine companies are aiming to export lower cost immunizations, which would create new competition for western pharmaceutical companies in providing vaccines to poorer countries. There is still speculation about the safety of Chinese products because of the food and drug safety record in recent years. The Associated Press reports:
China’s vaccine-making prowess captured world attention in 2009 when one of its companies developed the first effective vaccine against swine flu — in just 87 days — as the new virus swept the globe. In the past, new vaccine developments had usually been won by the U.S. and Europe.
But more needs to be done to build confidence in Chinese vaccines overseas, said Helen Yang of Sinovac, the NASDAQ-listed Chinese biotech firm that rapidly developed the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. “We think the main obstacle is that we have the name of ‘made in China’ still. That is an issue.”
China’s food and drug safety record in recent years hardly inspires confidence: in 2007, Chinese cough syrup killed 93 people in Central America; one year later, contaminated blood thinner led to dozens of deaths in the United States while tainted milk powder poisoned hundreds of thousands of Chinese babies and killed six.
The government has since imposed more regulations, stricter inspections and heavier punishments for violators. Perhaps because of that, regulators routinely crack down on counterfeit and substandard drugmaking.