Chinese parents clash with police as they demand answers over children’s vaccine scandal
- Protesters surround officials shouting ‘beat him, beat him’ as they demand to know if their children were given expired vaccines
- Jinhu safety scare is latest in series of vaccine scandals that have seriously undermined public confidence
Hundreds of anxious parents gathered outside government office buildings and on the streets of eastern China demanding to know whether their children had been given vaccines that had passed their expiry date.
Large crowds gathered outside the Licheng Health Centre in Jinhu county in Jiangsu province on Friday and video footage taken by bystanders showed repeated scuffles between the crowds and police which continued into the night.
A video which has gone viral on the internet showed the officials surrounded by the angry crowds who chanted, “Beat him, beat him”.
The protests followed official reports confirming at least 145 children in Jinhu, aged between three months and four years old, had received oral polio vaccines that had passed their expiry dates.
According to a report by CCTV on Friday, 17 officials in Jinhu have been put under investigation, sacked or expelled from the Communist Party over the scandal.
Video footage showed government officials being besieged by the angry parents, who were worried that their children might have also have been given the vaccines.
Wu Youjin, a Jinhu native who works in Beijing, said his 15-month-old daughter was given polio, leprosy and DPT (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccines when they visited home in May last year.
He said his daughter developed a rash afterwards but they did not connect the symptoms to the vaccine at the time.
After he learned about the latest news, he immediately checked the validity of the vaccines through an online system.
He was unable to find any information, which led him to question whether the vaccines were legitimate and safe.
He said some of the vaccines his daughter received did not carry any serial numbers and he had no channel to verify if they have been expired.
“The government has not provided complete and systematic solutions on what measures we should take or what we can do if we have been given the [expired] shots, and what the consequences are,” he said.
Wu said that his father, who witnessed the rallies in Jinhu on Friday, told him that government officials apologised to the parents and promised to get to the bottom of the matter.
The county government did not respond to calls for comments on the protests.
The scandal erupted at a time of low public confidence in the country’s vaccination industry, which has seen some mainland parents taking their children to Hong Kong for vaccinations.
In July, China’s drug regulator reported that Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology, one of the country’s biggest vaccine makers, had produced 252,600 substandard DPT vaccines that were given to hundreds of thousands of babies.
In November, lawmakers released the first draft of a Vaccine Management Law, which would allow people to sue drug makers for punitive damages in cases of death or serious illness caused by faulty vaccines.