1,600 get fake rabies vaccine

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 September, 2010, 12:00am

More than 1,600 people in Guangxi have been injected with fake rabies vaccine and at least one - a five-year-old boy - has died as a result.

The scandal was only made public last week after media reports. The boy died of breathing failure induced by rabies in Laibin in December, 51 days after having the first of six shots of rabies vaccine.

In recent years, government agencies have withheld information or started investigations only after media reports, deepening the public's mistrust and concern over the regulation of product safety.

In March, government-designated vaccines for encephalitis, hepatitis B and other diseases were linked to the deaths of four children and dozens of serious illnesses in one province. The Ministry of Health said an investigation showed the vaccines had been stored improperly but said the subsequent illnesses were unrelated. Many remain unconvinced.

The boy's father, who took his son to his village clinic for vaccination immediately after the dog bite, sent the remaining shot of the vaccine for examination after his son's death.

Laibin drug inspection authorities found the vaccine was fake after the company identified by the label as the producer denied making it or distributing products in Guangxi. The investigation found the drug had no rabies vaccine ingredients, according to a report by Guangxi-based newspaper Nanguo Zaobao.

Laibin's health chief, Deng Haiming , said five township hospitals had used such fake drugs and six other hospitals and 23 clinics had bought drugs via illegal channels.

A total of 1,656 people had had vaccine shots at those clinics and hospitals, with several having died from 'other reasons'. From June to September, 1,649 people given fake vaccines have been given remedial shots of government-authorised vaccine purchased by Laibin authorities.

Eight people, one from Guangdong and seven from Guangxi, have been arrested for making the fakes. Guangxi police confiscated some unfinished drugs, fake chops and a machine that could seal drugs at the home of the Guangdong suspect.

The suspect mixed the unfinished vaccine with boiled water and sold it for several yuan per dose to a Guangxi suspect, who subsequently sold it to the next level. It changed hands six times before it reached an executive of a pharmaceutical company, who sold it to clinics and hospitals. The price rose from several yuan to 150 yuan in the process.