Tuesday April 23, 2019

Usage Of Expired Polio Vaccines Creates a Public Scare In China

Regardless of how harsh the punishments will be, what’s more important is no more faulty vaccines used on their children, many parents said.

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China, Vaccines
A child receives a vaccination shot at a hospital in Rongan in China's southern Guangxi region on July 23, 2018. VOA

A recent vaccine scandal in eastern China’s Jiangsu province, where 145 children were confirmed to have received expired polio vaccinations, has once again exposed the country’s poor vaccine management and lack of systematic regulatory oversight, a former Chinese health official said.

To eradicate such lapses, Chen Bingzhong, ex-head of China’s Health Education Research Institute, calls for a nationwide probe, in which, third-party stakeholders such as parents, lawyers or reporters should take part to ensure transparency.

“There should first be a thorough probe into the cause of the Jiangsu case, which serves as another wake-up call. But who should launch the investigation? Local health departments alone won’t work because they are the ones who cause the problem and should be held responsible. An [unbiased] third party has to be involved,” Chen said.

Expired vaccine probe

Jiangsu police, on Monday, began an investigation after the local government in the province’s Jinhu County concluded that “only 145 children” were orally administered with polio vaccines that expired on December 11, 2018.

And so far a total of 17 officials have been punished, including the deputy head of Jinhu County.

China, Vaccines

The local government has also promised check-ups on all affected children.

Tao Lina, a Shanghai-based vaccine expert, blamed the county’s online registration system, which she said failed to alert doctors about expired vaccines or registered the wrong expiration date, according to a Global Times report.

A cover-up?

But many worried parents are skeptical of the official findings and suspect a larger-scale cover-up.

The case came to light on Jan 7 when a parent — a retired hospital worker — discovered that oral vaccine given to her grandkid was nearly a month out of date, according to local media reports.

Many parents, who picked up the news on social media, followed suit to check batch numbers on their children’s vaccination history and found that expired vaccines include not only polio vaccines, but also diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DPT), hepatitis B and varicella.

And the problem dates back to a decade ago, which is further fueling suspicion that the majority of the county’s 20,000 children under the age of 14 may have been exposed to faulty vaccines. The case in Jinhu is the latest in a string of similar scandals in China.

Late last week, hundreds of anxious parents gathered in front of Jinhu government offices, demanding answers.

Vaccines
A doctor assists people looking for treatment for malaria at a health center. VOA

Violent scuffles

Video footage that has gone viral on the Internet showed repeated scuffles between angry crowds, besieged government officials and squads of mob police, which continued into the night.

Three parents ended up being arrested and local residents have expressed difficulty in uploading videos of the protests to social media.

On Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China, some urged parents in Jinhu to stay calm, but many more shared their anger.

“The government’s credibility is overdrawn and the people’s tolerance is being put to the test,” one Weibo user said.

“To be honest, our regulators are all façade with little function,” another complained.

Public outcry

Parents elsewhere complained of governments of all levels’ inaction to address the country’s vaccine problems including appropriate compensations to those who suffer adverse effects.

The Drugs Controller General of India plans to come out with vaccine specific regulatory policy and a manual for regulatory requirements for commercialization of new drug and on how to conduct clinical trials in India, it was announced on Saturday.
To eradicate such lapses, Chen Bingzhong, ex-head of China’s Health Education Research Institute, calls for a nationwide probe, Pixabay

A father from Fujian province surnamed Lin told VOA that the local government there has done nothing to help this teenaged son, who experienced severe adverse effects from vaccines at the age of three.

“They [the Fujian government] keep patronizing me and passing the buck,” he said.

“Two to three years ago, my kid was identified to be suffering adverse reactions from vaccines, which is extremely rare. If the government can help deal with it, we have nothing to complain. But it’s been ten years, the government hasn’t even tried to take up a [responsible] stance, which I find very hard to accept. My child is now in a [brain-damaged] state,” he added.

A series of vaccine scandals in China including years of illegal sales of improperly-refrigerated vaccines and locally-produced substandard vaccines, which respectively came to light in March and July last year, have seriously undermined public confidence in spite of repeated calls for tightened regulation.

Vaccine management law

Wang Yuedan, deputy director of Peking University’s immunology department, however, insisted that the Jiangsu case is an isolated misconduct of local medical staff and the upcoming passage of a law on vaccine management will help address regulatory loopholes.

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The case came to light on Jan 7 when a parent — a retired hospital worker — discovered that oral vaccine given to her grandkid was nearly a month out of date. Pixabay

To tighten supervision on vaccines, Beijing released a draft Vaccine Management Law this month and is seeking public opinions until next month.

“I believe, once the law takes effect, there will be harsher punishments [on lawbreakers] to prevent such lapses. Among past expired vaccine cases, the punishment imposed on officials [in Jinhu] this time have been the harshest-ever,” he said.

But Chen disagreed.

He asked why many people from local medical staff to regulators in Jiangsu, who are responsible of tracking vaccine flows, have failed to sound alarm bells over expired vaccines?

Also Read: China Exchanged Data With NASA On Its Recent Mission To Moon

That shows a systematic regulatory negligence — serious flaws that legal revisions alone won’t cure if few profit-driven lawbreakers and officials who helped cover up the crisis have been held responsible, he said, adding a nationwide probe will find parents in Jiangsu aren’t alone.

Regardless of how harsh the punishments will be, what’s more important is no more faulty vaccines used on their children, many parents said. (VOA)

Next Story

Samsung Galaxy Fold Launch Postponed in China: Report

The Galaxy Fold is expected to be priced around Rs 1,40,790 in India

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samsung foldable phone
FILE - The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone is shown on a screen at Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s Unpacked event in San Francisco, Feb. 20, 2019. Samsung says it will look into some reports of flickering or cracking screens. VOA

Samsung has postponed the Galaxy Fold’s launch events in Hong Kong and Shanghai, which were originally scheduled for April 23 and 24, days after some units of the $2,000 foldable phone encountered major display issues.

“The firm is blaming the decision on a last minute issue with the venue, according to someone claiming to be familiar with the matter.

“But that seems a little too convenient seeing as the handset has been under heavy fire all week, after a number of units broke after being in the hands of reviewers for less than a day,” the SamMobile reported late on Sunday.

Tech reviewers from renowned media brands like The Verge and the CNBC noted issues like screen flickering, display distortion and unexplainable bulges bugging the industry-first device, reports said last week.

The handset maker obviously doesn’t want to associate these delays with the broken review units, but given the timing, chances are Samsung wants to buy more time to address these issues before the next wave of shipments, according to the Engadget.

Sub-titling the review “Yikes”, The Verge said that the flaws were “distressing to be discovered just two days after receiving the review unit”.

Smartphone, tablet folded phone
DJ Koh, president and CEO of IT and Mobile Communications, holds up the new Samsung Galaxy Fold smartphone during an event, Feb. 20, 2019, in San Francisco. VOA

Defending its devices just days before its roll-out, a Samsung spokesperson assured that the firm would “thoroughly inspect” the units.

The super-expensive foldable smartphone was launched during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February followed by Huawei launching its own foldable phone, the Mate X.

According to market research firm Gartner, foldable phones would make up 5 per cent of high-end phones sales by 2023 with around 30 million units.

Also Read- Why you Should Make your Credit Card Bill Payment on Time: 5 Reasons

The phone comes with the world’s first 7.3-inch Infinity Flex Display, which folds into a compact device with a cover display that is capable of opening up to three active apps simultaneously on the main display.

The Galaxy Fold is expected to be priced around Rs 1,40,790 in India. (IANS)