Guangdong worst affected by ban of hepatitis B vaccine after more baby deaths

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 December, 2013, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 December, 2013, 10:45am

Several provinces have scrambled to find a replacement after a Shenzhen manufacturer's hepatitis B vaccine was banned nationwide over a suspected link with seven infant deaths.

Guangdong health authorities revealed on Sunday that three more babies died this month after receiving the vaccine produced by Shenzhen-based Biokangtai. That came two days after the Food and Drug Administration issued a statement saying that four babies in Sichuan , Hunan and Guangdong had died. Another baby in Hunan became ill after an injection of the vaccine.

The administration banned the use of two batches of the Biokangtai vaccine following the deaths of two babies in Hunan on December 13. It extended the ban to all the hepatitis B products by the company on Friday after the reports of new cases.

Health authorities are still investigating the cases.

Founded in 1988, Biokangtai is the largest manufacturer of hepatitis B vaccines in China, according to its website. A woman who answered the phone at Biokangtai said the company was involved in an investigation and would not comment.

An earlier statement from Biokangtai attributed the babies' deaths to coincidence, saying that three million shots were administered to Hunan babies every year and all were fine.

Guangdong province is greatly affected by the ban because the province uses Biokangtai as its sole supplier for its free immunisation-by-vaccination plan for children. It had bought 1.45 million hepatitis B vaccine doses from other suppliers, said Deng Huihong, deputy director of the Guangdong Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The province has 1.8 million newborns. The new supply was to be distributed to all clinics yesterday and today to meet demand for two or three months.

The mainland's immunisation programme requires the hepatitis B vaccine to be injected 24 hours after birth and again the first month and the sixth month after birth.

Deng said a baby died 68 minutes after taking the Biokangtai vaccine in Shenzhen last Tuesday. The baby, who was born without problems, was given the shot six minutes after birth and had breathing difficulties two minutes later, according to the Southern Metropolis Daily.

Authorities were awaiting autopsy results on babies who died in Jiangmen and Meizhou , Deng said.

Hunan has bought more than 300,000 replacement vaccine doses, its health department told the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald. Hainan had also bought 40,000 replacements.