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Company's Hepatitis A vaccine banned
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-30 06:19

The government has banned the use and sale of a Hepatitis A vaccine produced by a Hangzhou company that has been linked to the death of a school pupil.

The State Food and Drug Administration has brought in the measure while it investigates the cause of the incident, which also left more than 300 pupils ill.

The administration will also check other vaccines across the country.

Health Minister Gao Qiang said yesterday at a press conference in the city of Suzhou, in Anhui Province, that the accident could be the result of psychosomatic factors.

Because the students received the vaccine together and talked about it afterwards, they may have brought on the ill effects themselves.

In this case most of the sick children were girls aged around 10, who often feel increasingly uncomfortable after talking with each other about inoculations, said an expert.

But Gao said it was too early to draw any conclusion on whether the tragedy was related to the vaccines or not.

Gao stressed the importance of organizing inoculations by following proper procedures.

No organization or individuals are allowed to inject vaccines for a group of people without approval, Gao added.

The vaccines at the centre of this case have been sent to Beijing for further testing. The results will be released in 10 days' time,

Medical experts with the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, also speaking at the press conference, said they believed the illness had no direct link with the vaccines, given the students' symptoms.

Mao Jiangsen, president of Pukang Biotechnology Co, the firm at the centre of the row, said his company attributed the student's abnormal symptoms to food poisoning.

Mao, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, argued the vaccine in this case would not lead to the symptoms displayed by the pupils.

These symptoms included numbness and difficulties in breathing, he said.

Damage to the students hearts and livers could have been caused by diarrhoea following food poisoning, Shanghai Morning Post quoted Mao as saying.

"Our vaccine should not be blamed," Mao said. "It is just an coincidence it happened at the same time as the food poisoning."

When asked about the death of the student, Mao said he did not want to comment, but added the vaccine the girl received was good.

Mao also answered claims that the incident was caused by the method of transporting of the vaccine, which was not shipped in a refrigerated truck.

"Even if they were not cool, the vaccines would lose its effectiveness, but would not kill people," Mao added.

Three thousand Hepatitis A vaccines produced by the company, which were sold in Shanghai earlier this year, are likely to have been used. But no incidents have so far been reported.

The incident under the spotlight happened when 2,444 students aged between three and 16 in Sixian County of East China's Anhui Province received vaccines on June 16 and 17.

Among those vaccinated was 6-year-old Li Wei from Shuiliu Primary School. She died on June 23.

A post-mortem examination showed Li suffered from respiratory failure and serious infection.

(China Daily 06/30/2005 page3)

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