Vaccine scandal underscores ills of healthcare system

Updated 2016-03-25 13:18:04 China.com

Vaccine scandal underscores ills of healthcare system

A child cries while receiving a shot of measles vaccine at a health station in Hefei in central China's Anhui province in 2010.

Has vaccine become venom in China? The news that a mother and her daughter were arrested for illegal vaccine sales worth over million in Shandong Province has rocked the country, triggering a nationwide panic over the safety of vaccines. The media has slammed the unscrupulous sales with an array of scathing op-eds. Apart from blaming the absence of regulation, here are some facts parents need to know before venting their anger.

The vaccines in the illegal sales are compromised but not fake. Compromised vaccines are non-toxic but have side-effects that may cause disability or death.

The vaccines are compromised because they are not adequately refrigerated or transported in unapproved conditions.

Lucrative business

The approved vaccination in China is divided into two categories. The first is state-provided essential vaccines used against diseases like polio and hepatitis B and is free of charge. The second one is optional which parents pay to protect their children from chicken pox, rabies, meningitis and hepatitis A, etc. Doctors normally recommend families the vaccinations in the second category and agents make a profit from the sales of them.

From manufacturers to provincial hospitals and to county-level clinics, each entity could raise the price for the vaccines, Liu Qian, an industry insider, told the Southern Weekly.

The mother, surnamed Pang, is one of the brokers in the lucrative business. She and her daughter were accused of purchasing 25 types of vaccines that fall under the second category from more than 100 pharmaceutical salesmen before reselling them to illegal agents and local medical facilities in 18 provinces. The women had profited from the illegal sale of vaccines since early 2010, the State Public Security Bureau alleged.

More strikingly, Pang, who used to be a pharmacist at a public hospital, was sentenced to three years in prison with a five-year reprieve after she was convicted of illegally selling vaccines in 2009, thepaper.com reported.

Though produced by qualified manufacturers, the vaccines were not adequately refrigerated or transported in unapproved conditions. Such compromised vaccines have potential side-effects and may even cause disability and death, Xinhua reported.

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