China Censors Social Media Posts on Vaccine Scandal

The South China Morning Post has reported that a Chinese drug company produced nearly 500,000 substandard vaccines for babies, roughly double an earlier estimate by authorities investigating a safety scandal. China’s drug regulator in July accused Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology of selling 252,600 doses of ineffective DPT vaccines to inoculate children against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus. Further investigations found that the company had produced an additional substandard batch of DPT vaccines, raising the total to 499,800 doses, says thereport.

The vaccine maker in question, Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology, after an official investigation, wasalso found to have been forging production data for more than four years. An investigation team, set up by the Chinese government had found that the vaccine maker had mixed some batches of its rabies vaccines with expired products and had not recorded incorrect dates or batch numbers and kept improper records since April 2014. It had also made about 252,600 ineffective vaccines for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus that were given to hundreds of thousands of babies – some as young as three months old.

Reports say China has already begun a recall on the faulty batches, it had even notified countries that imported the questionable vaccines. It was reported that India had even banned importation of rabies vaccine from the company, owing to the scandal.Dozens of parents who said their children had been affected by theshots protested outside the National Health Commission in Beijing last week, asking for compensation for their children’s medical bills and access to quality vaccines.

China's President Xi Jinping decried the situation, assuring a thorough investigation on the matter, but that seems to be medicine after death as some parents say they have no more faith in the system. In addition, reports that the government of China is currently being criticized for being more concerned about saving face than making things right with the children who were subjected to the faulty vaccines. Quoting Yanzhong Huang writing for the Nikkei Asian Review, it says:

“Officials have reportedly restricted news coverage and censors have swiftly scrubbed away widely shared essays and posts criticizing the government or spreading bad news. Even news reports from state-owned publications, such as an investigation into Wuhan Institute’s substandard vaccines by the newspaper Economic Observer, have been taken down.”

The state media has been accused of not putting priority in the reportage of the issue, rather they accuse groups of blowing the issue out of proportion and the government has also reportedly banned coverage of the vaccines. reports that Fu King-wa, an assistant professor who heads a project, monitoring censorship on Weibo (China’s version of twitter), reports that the rate at which posts related to the scandal were being screened peaked on Sunday. For every 10,000 posts made across the 120,000 accounts monitored, an average of 63 were blocked, he said.

One post that was removed by the censors said: “People from the drug and vaccine regulator should resign immediately, this is shameful!”


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