Tuesday February 19, 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Jan 7 when a parent — a retired hospital worker — discovered that oral vaccine given to her grandkid was nearly a month out of date, according to local media reports.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

Chinese Police Catches Hold of $1.5 Billion Money in Online Lending Scandal

The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.

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China
Chinese policemen watch as depositors from Ezubao gather outside the State Bureau for Letters and Calls Reception Division office in Beijing, Jan. 1, 2016. China's policy ministry says it investigated 380 online lenders following an avalanche of scandals. VOA

Chinese police have investigated 380 online lenders and frozen $1.5 billion in assets following an avalanche of scandals in the huge but lightly regulated industry, the government announced Monday.

Beijing allowed a private finance industry to flourish in order to supply credit to entrepreneurs and households that aren’t served by the state-run banking system. But that threatens to become a liability for the ruling Communist Party after bankruptcies and fraud cases prompted protests and complaints of official indifference to small investors.

The police ministry said it launched the investigation because person-to-person, or P2P, lending was increasingly risky and rife with complaints about fraud, mismanagement and waste.

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The police ministry said it launched the investigation because person-to-person, or P2P, lending was increasingly risky and rife with complaints about fraud, mismanagement and waste. Pixabay

The ministry gave no details of arrests but said more than 100 executives were being sought by investigators and some had fled abroad. It said authorities seized or froze 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) but gave no indication how much might be returned to depositors.

Police say some lenders and investment vehicles were brazenly fraudulent, while others collapsed after inexperienced founders failed to manage risk.

Monday’s statement said P2P lenders were investigated for complaints including wasting money, reporting phony investment plans and using illegal tactics to raise money.

Lending through online platforms grew by triple digits annually until 2017 when regulators tightened controls.

Depositors lent 1.9 trillion yuan ($280 billion) last year, but that was down by 50 percent from 2017, according to the Shenzhen Qiancheng Internet Finance Research Institute.

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The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved. Pixabay

The outstanding loan balance stood at 1.2 trillion yuan ($177 billion) at the end of 2018, down 25 percent from a year earlier, according to Diyi Wangdai, a web site that reports on the industry.

P2P lenders are part of a privately run Chinese finance industry the national bank regulator estimated in 2015 had grown to $1.5 trillion.

The internet has helped financial platforms attract money from financial novices with little knowledge of the risks involved.

Many lend to factories and retailers or invest in restaurants, car washes and other businesses. But inexperience and poor risk control means a downturn in business conditions can bankrupt them.

Also Read: Sales of Smart Feature Phones Expected To Be About $28 Billion Over Next Three Years

Finance as a whole has come under tougher scrutiny after a 2015 plunge in stock prices led to accusations of insider trading and other offenses.

In one of China’s biggest financial scams, authorities say depositors lost 50 billion yuan ($7.7 billion) in online lender Ezubo before it was seized by regulators in 2015.

The founder and his brother were sentenced to life in prison in 2017. (VOA)