Authorities in China are hunting 300 suspects linked to the illegal sale of spoiled vaccines. The case involves $88 million worth of improperly refrigerated vaccines sold in 24 regions and provinces since 2010. The New York Times’ Austin Ramzy reports:
After the arrest of a former doctor and her daughter in Shandong Province, in eastern China, the police said they were searching for 300 suspects across the country.
[…] The vaccine network spread across 24 provinces, regions and major cities including Beijing, Chongqing, Guangdong, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Xinjiang, according to the Shandong Food and Drug Administration.
The vaccines in question had been stored without appropriate temperature control to prevent spoilage. More than a dozen suspect products have been identified, including vaccines for rabies, polio,meningitis, hepatitis B and mumps, the Shandong authorities said. Some Chinese news outlets have reported that 25 suspect products have been identified, with as many as two million doses sold. The vaccines were worth an estimated 570 million renminbi, or $88 million, Xinhua reported. [Source]
BBC reports that the incident has triggered an angry outcry from the Chinese public. Concerned citizens have taken to Weibo to express their outrage over the country’s health system:
It sparked fury over the weekend as thousands of users on microblogging network Sina Weibo questioned the delay.
[…] “This is such a huge case and not a single regulatory official has come out to apologise, not a single one has resigned… this system which doesn’t care whether ordinary citizens live or die makes one’s soul tired,” said one user.
“24 provinces, 5 years already, and how many children!… It’s been nearly a year and then they reveal this! Isn’t this genocide? Words cannot express how angry I am!” said another.
Authorities appeared to respond to the public anger and calls for more information by promising on Monday to punish those responsible. [Source]
The current scandal is the latest in a string of cases involving dangerous foods and fake drugs that have undermined the Chinese public’s confidence in the government’s ability to monitor the safety of food and medical products. Almost half of China’s food plants failed health and safety inspections in 2014.