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Dealer questioned for vaccine incident
By Wang Zhuoqiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-05 06:05

The drug wholesaler linked to an alleged harmful vaccine incident, which hospitalized 300 schoolchildren, was arrested early on Monday morning.

Zhang Peng, 29, disappeared after reports broke that a child had died after being immunized against Hepatitis A in Sixian County, Anhui Province.

Zhang, based in Chuzhou, allegedly sold 3,000 doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine produced by Pukang Biotech Co in Zhejiang Province to a number of primary and secondary schools.

Three local health workers, who are believed to have acted as go-betweens in the deal between health providers and schools, were arrested earlier.

All but 40 of the children hospitalized had been discharged by Saturday.

The others are still under medical observation in local hospitals, said Wang Zhen, spokeswoman for the county government.

"The fear among local parents and students over the allegedly spoiled vaccines has been eliminated after they were given lectures by top medical experts from around the country," said Wang.

Results of tests on the vaccines have not yet been finalized, but Health Minister Gao Qiang last week gave the first intimation that the vaccine may not have been tainted. He suggested that mass hysteria might prove to be the cause of so large a number of children being taken ill after being inoculated.

However, he refused to expand or draw any conclusion until all the evidence and tests have been completed.

The local health department has said it believed the crisis resulted from an overreaction by some vaccinated children and that mass panic spread after the death of a six-year-old girl. But the cause of her death has not been determined as no autopsy was carried out after her parents went ahead with her funeral.

The sale and use of vaccines produced by the Zhejiang company were banned on the orders of the central government last week.

In a separate development, a vaccine for a type of haemorrhagic fever reportedly left 44 school children in Northeast China's Jilin Province ill.

The affected pupils in Tumen developed symptoms including rashes, fever and respiratory tract infections after receiving the vaccine, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Four were sent to hospital on Thursday, but were later discharged.

That incident followed the vaccination by the city's Disease Control and Prevention Centre of 135 adults and 2,990 students between May 17 and June 22.

(China Daily 07/05/2005 page3)

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