Vac­cine scan­dals call for stricter con­trol and man­age­ment

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Barely five months after it was re­vealed a key man­u­fac­turer had fab­ri­cated records re­gard­ing ra­bies vac­cines, we heard solemn vows of a na­tion­wide clean-up and prom­ises that sim­i­lar lapses would not be re­peated. That scan­dal ac­cel­er­ated the draft­ing of a law to es­tab­lish a strict reg­u­la­tory sys­tem cov­er­ing the re­search, de­vel­op­ment, pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­bu­tion and use of vac­cines.

If that par­tic­u­lar case high­lighted the pub­lic’s dis­trust of the way vac­cines are made and sup­plied in our coun­try, what has hap­pened in Jinhu county, Jiangsu prov­ince, re­veals stun­ning fail­ures in how vac­cines are be­ing ad­min­is­tered and how ur­gent it is the pro­posed law is in­tro­duced to im­pose the “strictest” reg­u­la­tions on the pro­duc­tion and use of vac­cines.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties in Jinhu have con­firmed 145 chil­dren were ad­min­is­tered an ex­pired po­lio vac­cine, at­tribut­ing it to “chaotic man­age­ment” on the part of lo­cal vac­cine ad­min­is­tra­tors in this par­tic­u­lar case. But sus­pi­cious par­ents in the county in­sist that such a mess is long­stand­ing, and in­volves an un­known num­ber of other vac­cines.

As in sim­i­lar cases in the past, more than a dozen of­fi­cials have been dis­missed, or are un­der probe. And a broader in­ves­ti­ga­tion is to fol­low.

The lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to re­as­sure the pub­lic fur­ther wor­ries are un­called for, but un­less there is solid proof that this was in­deed a one-time mis­take as they claim, it will be dif­fi­cult to con­vince the in­cred­u­lous pub­lic with vac­ci­na­tion records, be­cause as shown by the ear­lier scan­dal, such records are at best poor or mis­lead­ing, es­pe­cially when it comes to the pro­duc­tion dates, the cur­rent fo­cus of pub­lic sus­pi­cions.

In this in­stance, it may be that the prob­lem can be traced back to chaotic every­day man­age­ment at lo­cal dis­ease con­trol and pre­ven­tion agen­cies, which has much to do with the awk­ward role dis­ease con­trol and pre­ven­tion agen­cies are as­signed in the na­tional pub­lic health regime.

In that case it will be dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine to what ex­tent re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als, agen­cies, or in­sti­tu­tional ar­range­ments are to blame.

While ex­pired vac­cines may not cause di­rect, im­me­di­ate ad­verse health ef­fects, in­ad­e­quate im­mu­niza­tion may ex­pose peo­ple to harm­ful, po­ten­tially fa­tal, med­i­cal con­di­tions. So it is nat­u­ral that peo­ple are wor­ried, es­pe­cially par­ents.

Each new scan­dal drains pub­lic con­fi­dence in vac­cines, even the broader au­thor­i­ties. And that long-term ac­cu­mu­la­tion of mis­trust may prove very harm­ful.

Clearly the pro­posed law on vac­cines can­not be in­tro­duced soon enough. And when it is, it must be im­ple­mented to the let­ter.

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