15 detained over China vaccine scandal

Officials checking on vaccines for rabies at the Disease Control and Prevention Center in China. Fifteen people have been arrested, including the chairman of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology that had fabricated recor
Officials checking on vaccines for rabies at the Disease Control and Prevention Center in China. Fifteen people have been arrested, including the chairman of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology that had fabricated records. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - The Chinese authorities have arrested 15 people, including the chairman of a rabies vaccine producer under fire for fraudulent quality control, in the country's latest drug-safety scandal.

News that pharmaceutical manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology had fabricated records and was ordered to cease production of rabies vaccines has revived deep consumer unease over product safety in the country, fuelled by recurring scandals over the years.

The authorities in the north-eastern city of Changchun, where the company is based, have arrested 15 people, including the company's chairman, on suspicion of criminal offences, city police announced late on Tuesday (July 24).

The announcement did not give the chairman's full name, but she has previously been identified as Gao Junfang.

The affair has shattered already fragile trust in regulators and spotlighted the frustrations of China's increasingly sophisticated consumers, who took to social media en masse to vent their anger over the case.

The China Food and Drug Administration said last week that the problematic rabies vaccine had not left Changsheng's factory, but the company admitted it had shipped a separate sub-standard vaccine.

That vaccine for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus was found by regulators to fail quality standards, but the company revealed that it sold 250,000 doses to Shandong province last year.

 

The problems have rekindled already deep fears over domestically made medicine and driven worried parents online to swop information on obtaining imported vaccines.

The authorities have announced a series of investigations and vowed that heads would roll.

In a sign of the high-level unease, President Xi Jinping - on a trip to Africa - weighed in on Monday, calling the vaccine company's actions "vile in nature and shocking", according to state media.