Parents across China are up in outrage, following the recent exposure of one of China’s biggest health and safety scandals in history, involving 570 million yuan in possibly dangerous vaccines distributed across two-thirds of the country.
On Sunday, Shandong province’s food and drug administration released detailed information regarding 300 individuals — from across 24 provinces and cities — who are suspected of either buying or selling 2 million vaccines worth 570 million yuan from a Shandong mother and daughter, Sohu reports.
Pang, a 47-year-old pharmacist, and Sun, her daughter who just graduated from medical school, are at the center of this explosive scandal. They were both detained last year for selling inadequately refrigerated vaccines and are charged with operating an unlicensed business that sold 25 kinds of vaccines for adults and children in bulk since 2010.
According to state media, the vaccines included shots for diseases like polio, rabies, chicken pox and hepatitis A that were made by licensed pharmaceutical companies. However, the pair did not have the refrigeration facilities necessary for storing the vaccines. Chinese health officials warned that without proper refrigeration, vaccines could lose their effectiveness, putting people’s lives at risk.
Pang was given a three-year suspended sentence for illegally selling vaccines back in 2009. However, she continued her work and was joined by her daughter when she couldn’t find a job after graduating from med school in 2014.
The mother and daughter are now awaiting trial, if convicted, they could receive the death sentence if the court feels that their crimes endangered people’s lives.
Caixin reports that while Pang and Sun were arrested last April, Shandong authorities only just now published the names of their 300 accomplices. They say they are now working with authorities in 24 various regions to track down these individuals. A March 25 deadline has also been imposed on pharmaceutical companies with ties to the spoiled vaccine ring to come forward with information.
Authorities have refused to speculate about how many individuals have been affected by this scandal, but the list of regions involved does include two-thirds of China: Anhui, Beijing, Chongqing, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Heilongjiang, Hubei, Hunan, Inner Mongolia, Jilin, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Shanxi, Shandong, Xinjiang and Zhejiang.
“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 the law,” the Shandong food and drug administration declared on its website.
Additionally, to help ease public concern, Beijing municipal health authorities assured that all vaccines sold in the capital’s regulated medical centers were “safe.”
However, Chinese netizens have been quick to voice their alarm and anger about this huge scandal, taking to Weibo to air their grievances, via the BBC:
“This is such a huge case and not a single regulatory official has come out to apologize, not a single one has resigned… this system which doesn’t care whether ordinary citizens live or die makes one’s soul tired,” said one netizen.
“24 provinces, 5 years already, and how many children!… It’s been nearly a year and then they reveal this! Isn’t this genocide? Words cannot express how angry I am!” said another.
One of those to speak up on Weibo was Chinese superstar actress Zhang Ziyi who said that she brought her baby daughter to the United States to get her latest shots:
“I’ve spoken up on my Weibo numerous times. There are so many cases of spoilt vaccines, where is the National Regulation System? Why are there so many similar cases popping out, with nothing done to stop it? How can the production and circulation departments work together to prevent such cases from happening?” she wrote, via Toggle.
This scandal has the chance to once again shatter fragile Chinese consumer confidence in domestic products. Mainland parents are famous for buying milk formula from abroad or from Hong Kong, following a colossal milk powder scandal in 2008 that caused the deaths of at least six infants. Soon, parents may also decide to shop overseas for their vaccines.