Shares in Chinese vaccine makers and biotech firms fell across the board on Monday after Premier Li Keqiang slammed Changsheng Biotechnology Co for having crossed a moral red line and called for swift action. However the public was not informed that these vaccines had been distributed.
Reports say the chairwoman and producer of the rabies vaccine who is now under fire for fraudulent quality control are among 15 people arrested by Chinese authorities. Chinese leaders are scrambling to shore up public confidence and oversight of the pharmaceutical industry after a rabies vaccine maker was found faking records, the latest in a slew of public health and safety scandals that have outraged Chinese parents.
The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) said last week the problematic rabies vaccine had not left Changsheng's factory, but the company admitted it had shipped a separate, sub-standard vaccine. "It really reflects big loopholes and issues with China's food and drug safety regulation", wrote one Weibo user under the handle 1988 Cheng Hongyu.
The shocking story has exposed major problems with standards in China's pharmaceutical industry.
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The maker is based in Changchun City, Jilin Province, and was punished for selling substandard vaccines for children past year.
Because of this scandal, the healthcare was sacrificed for the day of Monday and Changsheng's Shenzhen-listed shares suffer from a drop of $1.8 billion. Macau's health bureau said current supply was sufficient for residents and there was no need for concern.
Among the censored posts was a widely shared article titled "King of Vaccine", which accused the owner of Changsheng of corruption and unethical behavior.
In 2008, baby formula produced and fed to infants in China was discovered to be tainted with melamine, a chemical compound mainly for industrial use, affecting tens of thousands of children and provoking widespread panic.
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The other 14 were also executives at the company, state broadcaster CCTV said on Wednesday.
It isn't even the first vaccine scandal China has faced - in 2016, a criminal organization was found to be selling millions of improperly stored vaccines, which had been widely disseminated.
Another 113,000 doses of Changsheng's rabies vaccine were also affected, according to authorities.
Mei Zeng, chief physician at the Fudan University pediatric hospital, said there was little likelihood of harm to children from Changsheng's vaccines, but noted the social media attention had magnified the impact of the scandal.
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