Minitrue: Control Calls to Action on Vaccine Scandal

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.

Everyone: although this vaccine incident occurred in Jinhu [county], it is extremely likely to spread throughout the city. I hope everyone will get an idea of the overall situation across the city, and that we can pull through this crisis together.

Related requirements are as follows:

  1. Strictly control calls to action or inflammatory information related to the Jinhu vaccine situation on self-media and other platforms.
  2. If you discover calls to action, inflammatory information, or attacks on the Party committee or government on forums outside the city, report promptly with links and screenshots. (January 12, 2019) [Chinese]

This directive was issued by a propaganda official in Huai’an city, province. New York Times’ Sui-Lee Wee and Elsie Chen reported protests in Jinhu following news that 145 children had received expired polio vaccines.

Hundreds of angry parents gathered on Friday outside the county government office, some of them scuffling with police officers, according to the police in Jinhu and videos that went viral on WeChat, a popular social media tool.

Dozens of protesters surrounded the party secretary of Jinhu, chanting: “Beat him, beat him.”

“None of us wanted to beat the party secretary, but perhaps several people were quite emotional,” said a mother surnamed Sun who had tried unsuccessfully to check official websites for information about three vaccine doses given to her 1-year-old son. “All we wanted was an explanation from him.”

Ms. Sun said the local police had warned her not to accept interview requests on the subject, “especially from the foreign media.” “I don’t dare to trust China’s anymore,” Ms. Sun said.

[…] In a statement on Saturday, the police in Jinhu said they had detained three men for “inciting trouble.” They said that parents of who had not received the expired vaccines “took the opportunity to create trouble, spread rumors, incite people to gather, block government gates and traffic, and disrupt public order.” [Source]

Macquarie University’s Kevin Carrico commented on the Jiangsu case, linking it to earlier scandals involving vaccines, milk powder contamination and alleged child abuse:

For more on stability maintenance in the wake of “sudden incidents,” see CDT’s 2017 interview with SFU historian Jeremy Brown.

13 local health officials have reportedly been dismissed in Jiangsu, while others remain under investigation. Expired doses are usually simply ineffective, but there have been reports of fevers, rashes, coughing, and vomiting, and widespread anxiety surrounds vaccine safety following earlier scandals. CDT published directives on coverage of earlier cases last summer and in March 2016. Last month, Sixth Tone’s Ni Dandan wrote about the lasting effects of earlier scandals, reportedly including deaths, disabilities, and chronic illnesses, and about reservations with the government’s legislative response:

Following this summer’s scandal, China in November released its first draft law on vaccine management for public inspection. The draft law would impose stricter penalties for any illegal practices in the industry; establish a system to track the production, distribution, and administration of vaccines; and set up a formalized compensation system for victims of substandard vaccinations. It would also impose stricter penalties for any illegal practices in the industry, including hefty fines for fake vaccines or fraudulent inspection records.

But Beijing Fahuan Law Firm lawyer Wang Peng — no relation to Wang Shixia — says that the law’s vague wording still leaves the vaccine system open to abuse. “At present, medical associations decide whether there is any connection between a vaccine and a patient’s reaction to it,” he says. “But the members of [medical association] appraisal boards include hospital doctors. These people might be receiving certain benefits under the table.”

[…] Lu, the Guangzhou-based professor, agrees with Wang’s analysis, telling Sixth Tone that such a third party would have to include people from all walks of life, not just doctors and medical professionals. “This would benefit information transparency and make the results more convincing,” he says, adding that grassroots medical practitioners at community-level hospitals should receive more training to diagnose abnormal reactions to vaccinations, so that victims can receive timely care. [Source]

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth