A huge fake vaccine scandal has been pushing the public anger to a boiling point in China for at least two weeks. The outrage of the chinese public has found its way to social media posts with the hashtag “Changsheng vaccine case” being viewed 470 million times by Monday. Censors, which at first deleted critical Wechat articles, seemed to allow the deluge of public discussion.
An investigation has been launched into that vaccination scandal as panic grows over Changsheng Biotechnology Company’s falsified production data for its rabies vaccine. The pharmaceutical company has been ordered to halt production and recall all 250’000 rabies vaccines already sold. Even if there has been no evidence of harm from the vaccine, the scandal has however sparked a huge outcry throughout China.
Changsheng — whose name means “long life” — suspended trading its shares on Monday. The immediate and obvious consequence of that decision caused their value to drop by 10%. The shares have slumped 47% since last week, when news of the scandal first broke. Changsheng is owned by Chinese billionaire Gao Junfang.
On Sunday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged severe punishment for the people involved, saying the incident had “crossed a moral line”.
“We will resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that endanger the safety of peoples’ lives, resolutely punish cheaters according to the law, and resolutely and severely criticise dereliction of duty in supervision,” he said in a statement posted on a government website.
Outrage swept Chinese social media on Monday as regulators and officials tried to contain fallout over revelations that one of the country’s largest vaccine makers had been giving children defective vaccines.
Despite the fact that there have been no reports of injuries or side effects from the vaccines and even with chinese officials and state media releasing statements about accountability, the lack of public trust continues. The distrust lingers specifically as parents remember the government’s handling of previous public health crises. In 2008, six children died and 300’000 fell ill after drinking milk powder tainted with melamine, a case officials initially had covered up.
Online commentators also posted on the US embassy’s Weibo page. “Please ask the ambassador to help us call for human rights and give a child a lifeline. The fake vaccines have been uncovered, poisoned milk powder overflows. Save the children,” one said.
Another said: “Mr. Ambassador, tell Mr. Trump, liberate China. We don’t want our children and grandchildren to be persecuted by their vaccines.”
The Changsheng case further erodes public trust in Chinese-made drugs, which the government has been trying to promote. In 2016 police in Shandong province found $90 m in vaccines had been improperly stored and sold throughout the country. Last week, a heart drug made by Zhejiang Huaihai Pharmaceutical was recalled after regulators found an impurity in it linked to cancer.
“Vaccines directly concern the health of children and are related to life,” state-run Global Times said in an editorial. “Every negative news item in this area will make all of society look at it.”
It is not known how many children have received the vaccine, but there have not been any reports of children falling ill after receiving the inoculation. The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has not said what impact the vaccine could have on a person’s health.