China Vaccine(疫苗) Scandal  Prompts  Angry Backlash(强烈抵制) from Parents and Doctors

Furious(狂怒的) parents and health care professionals in China are demanding to know how almost $90 million of improperly stored and potentially fatal(致命的) vaccines were distributed across some two-thirds of the country over the past five years, in the latest public-health scandal to raise serious questions over the efficacy(效力) of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule.

According to state media, a mother and daughter from eastern China’s Shandong province have been caught peddling(兜售) 25 kinds of unrefrigerated vaccines — including for polio(小儿麻痹症), mumps(流行性腮腺炎), rabies(狂犬病), hepatitis B(/ˌhɛpəˈtaɪtɪs/乙肝,甲肝是hepatitis A, 同理丙肝[不是饼干]就是hepatitis C), encephalitis(/ˌɛnsɛfəˈlaɪtɪs/脑炎) and meningococcal([mə,niŋɡə’kɔkəl]脑膜炎类的)diseases — to medical facilities across 24 Chinese provinces since 2010.


Inflaming the public backlash, authorities had apparently known about the case since last April, though only publicized the news late Friday in a belated(迟来的) attempt to trace potential victims. Moreover, the elder suspect(疑犯), a 47-year-old woman surnamed Pang, had apparently been convicted(证明有罪,这种表达方法很适合用在犯罪类的文章里。) of the same offense in 2009 but only received a suspended sentence(缓刑). State media admitted the compromised(妥协的) inoculations(疫苗接种) could have resulted in paralysis(瘫痪) and even death.

“Twenty-four provinces, five years already, and how many children! It’s been nearly a year and then they reveal this! Isn’t this genocide(大屠杀)? Words cannot express how angry I am!” posted one user of China’s Twitter-like microblog Weibo, reports the BBC.


“This is a matter of life and death,” one Beijing-based doctor told Radio Free Asia. “They should make an announcement about this as soon as possible … so we can locate these items and cut off the supply, so no more people are harmed.”

The health scandal is China’s largest in financial terms on record, and the nation’s most serious since 2008, when the toxic chemical melamine(三聚氰胺) was discovered to have been added to children’s milk powder, causing at least six infants to die and 300,000 to become ill.

The fallout(这个消息的败露) from that disaster continues today: stores in China’s semiautonomous(半自治性的) satellite of Hong Kong are frequently overrun(泛滥) with mainland shoppers buying locally produced milk powder, which they believe is more trustworthy. Because of a lack of transparency, medical scandals, even those ostensibly(外表上的) put to bed(安顿), tend to fester(使… 恶化) among Chinese consumers.


Shattered(破碎的) public confidence owing to the vaccine scandal may also portend(预示着) more widespread public-health concerns. The rise of the antivax cult(反疫苗信徒) in the U.S. and Europe, despite zero medical evidence of dangerous side effects, demonstrates how harmful misinformation can flourish even within democracies with freewheeling(随心所欲的) media environments.


Chinese parents now have legitimate(正当的,合理的) reasons to question whether to give children what may well prove vital inoculations. Although most routine jabs(注射) are mandatory in China, experts fear many parents may now try to find ways around giving youngsters the potentially life-saving treatments.

“I would not be surprised if parents started to think twice about giving their children locally manufactured vaccines, and a lot of them are likely to turn to imported treatments,” Sophie Cairns, senior life-sciences analyst for the IHS analysis firm, tells TIME. “In general, patients tend to have quite a low opinion of(地道) public health care in China, and this is likely to make tensions worse.”


Syringe and vaccine bottle on white background

 Authorities have set a March 25 deadline for the pharmaceutical companies and distributors believed involved in the bogus(伪造的) vaccine ring to come up with information about the whereabouts(行踪) of the drugs. (The mother and daughter are thought to have used a network of some 300 suppliers around the country.) However, authorities have refused to speculate(推测) how many people may have been affected. Although strict rules govern the sale and storage of vaccines in China, red tape(繁文缛节) and poor enforcement prompt many health care facilities to source supplies from the “grey” market.


“We will thoroughly investigate all clues in the case and once we get to the bottom of it then we will severely punish those found to have violated(违反) the law,” the Shandong food-and-drug administration said in a statement on its website.

This is unlikely to assuage(平息) the ire(愤怒) directed at Beijing authorities, whose promise of delivering higher living standards in exchange for(作为…的交换) blind(盲目的) acquiesce(默许) to the Chinese Communist Party is increasingly strained by economic and environmental privation(丧失). China suffers some of the worst water and air pollution in the world; the latter is thought responsible for up to 670,000 deaths annually. Food safety also ranks as one of the chief concerns for Chinese consumers following a slew of (大量的)high-profile scandals, including fake eggs, exploding watermelons and the widespread sale of putrid(腐败的) meat.


Following the vaccine scandal, Chinese are increasingly waking up to the question: Given the very real chance they fall ill from the air they breathe, the food they eat or water they drink, can they even trust the medical treatment their doctors provide?





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