08/17/2018, 14.26
CHINA
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Vaccine scandal: parents opt to go to Hong Kong to treat their children

Despite high costs, many choose to travel to the former British colony for safe treatment. The Politburo Standing Committee sacks and sanctions 51 top provincial and national officials. Changsheng Biotech employees, including chairwoman Gao Junfang, will be indicted.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Parents with young children are increasingly worried as a result of the scandal over the sale of bad vaccines. Many fear the possible repercussions on children's health and are opting to go to Hong Kong or even Japan for medical treatment and "safe" vaccinations. Hong Kong University has opened a hospital in Shenzhen, on the Chinese side of the border, to treat Chinese patients.

Mainlanders have been coming to Hong Kong for treatment for some time. Even if it is very expensive, everyone thinks it is safer. Rich people, who also have access to good health care in China, seek treatment in Hong Kong, a Hong Kong healthcare worker said. There is a lot of going back and forth.

Meanwhile, the crackdown on those responsible for the scandal continues. The authorities have sacked or sanctioned 51 politicians and high-ranking provincial officials and 18 Changsheng Biotech employees.

The latter provided false data and distributed 500,000 sub-standard doses for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT).

Four senior officials with the Ministry of Health have been fired. A special commission set up by the government to investigate has frozen Changsheng Biotech’s assets.

The Politburo Standing Committee ordered the sacking of Jilin vice-governor, Jin Yuhui, who had overseen food and drug regulations in the province since April of last year.

Other top officials to lose their jobs include Li Jinxiu, deputy chairman of the Jilin People’s Political Consultative Conference and a former provincial food and drug chief; Changchun mayor Liu Changlong; and Bi Jingquan, party secretary and deputy director of the State Market Regulatory Administration in Beijing.

Beijing also asked Jiang Zhiying, a top party official from Jilin, and Jiao Hong, director of China’s national drug regulator, to make a “deep self-inspection”, and imposed penalties on 35 other unidentified officials.

For its part, the National Supervisory Commission, the country’s anticorruption super agency, launched an official investigation into Wu Zhen, former deputy director of the China Food and Drug Administration who was also in charge of drug registration and management.

The Politburo Standing Committee called for severe punishments for violators and introduced new measures to beef up supervision of vaccine production.

Police also announced on Thursday that they had completed their investigation into the company and the 18 people arrested, including chairwoman Gao Junfang, would face prosecution.

Further investigations found that the company had produced an additional substandard batch of DPT vaccines, raising the total to 499,800 doses.

The shoddy vaccines were given to hundreds of thousands of babies – some as young as three months old – and were sold in the eastern provinces of Shandong and Anhui, investigators said.

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