Trust in China Slumps

The vaccine scandal strikes another blow against the government. If isolated, this wouldn't be a big deal, but combined with ongoing food safety, pollution, and generally rising health consciousness of the public, it is a huge story.

Xinhua: Official vaccine investigation begins
A large quantity of improperly stored or expired vaccines have allegedly been sold across the country since 2011. Twenty-nine pharmaceutical companies have been implicated in sales, and 16 institutions in purchases. More than 130 people have been questioned and 69 criminal cases have been filed.

Bernhard Schwartlander, World Health Organization (WHO) representative in China, called the national immunization system "one of the best in the world" in an interview with Xinhua on Monday.

The WHO has confidence in all Chinese vaccine manufacturers, based on over 15 years of working closely with the national vaccine regulators, Dr Schwartlander said, pointing out that the biggest risk is that parents might avoid routine vaccination of their children as a result of diminished confidence in the system.

He called for urgent action to restore public trust.
Caixin has the best take on the subject: Closer Look: Vaccine Scandal Has Roots in Officials' Push for Profits
The scandal came to light earlier this month, when police in the eastern province of Shandong said they arrested a former pharmacist and her daughter for illegally selling improperly stored or expired vaccines worth more than 310 million yuan since 2011. Their sales network covered 24 provinces and cities.

The pair allegedly sold 25 types of non-mandatory vaccines used to combat chicken pox, rabies, meningitis and hepatitis A. The shots were for both children and adults.

The State Council issued rules for vaccines in 2005 that divided them into two categories. The mandatory category 1 vaccines, such as those for hepatitis B and tuberculosis, are provided to the public by the government for free. Category 2 vaccines included those that members of the public can choose to get at their own expense.

The first type is strictly controlled by provincial-level disease control authorities, from purchase to distribution and inoculation. The expenses are covered by the government and are transparent, a person close to the disease control department in Shandong said.

The business of category 2 vaccines is more complicated. The 2005 rules opened the door for more market players to participate in the production and sales of non-mandatory vaccines in the hope that competition would lead to fairer prices.
Rabies vaccine is not mandatory, but it is if you are bitten by a potentially rabid animal.
This has encouraged some to take risks. In June 2005, police in Si County, in the eastern province of Anhui, arrested several individuals, disease control center employees and doctors, for buying hepatitis A vaccines from unlicensed dealers and inoculating more than 2,400 students without parental permission. One 4-year-old girl died after getting a vaccination.
That is one of the arguments of anti-vaxxers in the U.S., that vaccines are merely a way for drug companies to earn money, and then cause needless deaths in the rare cases where the vaccine has a fatal effect.

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