Probe ordered into tainted vaccines

By Shan Juan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-18 06:44
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Report: Nearly 100 children died or fell ill in Shanxi after shots

BEIJING: The Ministry of Health (MOH) has told the Shanxi health department to conduct an investigation after it was reported on Wednesday that nearly 100 children in the province had died or fell ill after receiving vaccinations at government-designated clinics from 2006 to 2008.

The Shanxi government denied the widely-circulated report and the provincial health department said it had not received reports of mass adverse effects from any vaccination, the Xinhua News Agency said, citing a division chief.

The MOH, in a statement posted on its website, said it has asked the local health department to report the latest situation on any possible adverse reactions to the vaccines.

A report in the China Economic Times on Wednesday, citing Chen Tao'an - a whistleblower who had worked with the provincial center for disease control and prevention (CDC) in 2007 - blamed tainted vaccines for the deaths or disabilities of the children.

According to the report, the local health department in 2006 asked an unqualified private company to supply the vaccines, a practice that law experts said was against national regulations.

Chen blamed abuse of power and corruption by local health authorities but the MOH said it had launched an investigation into the case, which was closed in November 2008. It found that the sampled vaccines met national standards.

But the China Economic Times published what it described was a partial list of vaccine victims aged 2-17.

The four who died after being administered tainted vaccines were 9-month-old Wang Xiao'er and 8-month-old Liu Ziyang from Luliang city; and 3-year-old Wang Shichao and Liu Yi from Yangquan city, the report said.

Children from 74 families were crippled or developed serious diseases such as encephalitis after being vaccinated against hepatitis B, rabies, and type-B encephalitis, it said.

Wang Mingliang, the father of Wang Xiao'er, told the newspaper that his only son died in August 2008, about seven months after being vaccinated against hepatitis B.

The boy had fever and convulsions a week after the vaccination but hospitals in the province and Beijing could not find the cause, he said.

Chen said he believed it was tainted vaccine that caused the child's death.

"Vaccines which should have been kept refrigerated according to regulations were found to be piled up in non-air-conditioned buildings," Chen told the paper.

"Spoiled vaccines should have been destroyed according to regulations on vaccine safety but they were still used," he said.

Law experts said if that proved true, it would be tantamount to a criminal case.

Medical experts said no vaccination was risk free, with side effects seen to one out of 3 million recipients.

The tainted vaccine had been reported since 2006 but was still in use until the end of 2008 across Shanxi, according to the report.

The private company, it reported, ended the contract with the local health department in 2007. Local CDC director Li Wenyuan, who was reported to be closely associated with the company, was dismissed last month.

By Wednesday night, many of the online links to the story could not be accessed.