China Health Ministry Launches Investigation Into Baby Vaccine Deaths
December 23, 2013

China Health Ministry Launches Investigation Into Baby Vaccine Deaths

Gerard LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Six babies died in China after being inoculated with a hepatitis B vaccination. Four were from Guangdong, the other two were from Hunan and Sichuan.

The hospitals that used the vaccine were ordered to remove the product from their shelves while the Health Ministry investigates the deaths as well as BioKangtai’s products.

BioKangtai is a Shenzhen-based company that manufactured the vaccine. In a statement to the media the company said it thoroughly follows safety regulations and was testing the suspect vaccine itself.

On December 13, two batches of the vaccine were suspended, pending an investigation of four infant deaths. On December 20, China’s food and drug regulator stopped the use of all hepatitis B vaccines made by the company.

According to a Bloomberg report, after the Health Ministry suspended sales of BioKangtai's products, three other types of hepatitis B vaccine were purchased by Guangdong to ensure sufficient supplies were available. Bloomberg cites Great Wisdom, a financial news agency, as the source of that information.

An anonymous source told Great Wisdom that one of the three vaccine types came from Beijing Tiantan Biological Products Corp. Tiantan’s shares rose by the 10 percent daily limit following that report.

Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social network, was flooded with discussions and comments on the topic.

One user wrote, “why was this allowed onto the market? The government needs to come clean about this.”

“In general, hepatitis B vaccine is known to be safe and effective,” Helen Yu, a communications officer for the World Health Organization in China, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “We are confident in the ability of CFDA to conduct a thorough investigation.”

China’s ability to provide safe food and medicine is under scrutiny. Tainted baby formula, fox meat sold as mutton and thousands of pigs found floating in Shanghai’s main river, are among the controversial news headlines that have sparked public outrage over the years. The 2008 contaminated baby formula incident resulted in the deaths of at least six babies.

There has also been reports of children dying or becoming very ill from other faulty vaccines like those for encephalitis and rabies. In 2003, when an outbreak of the SARS virus began, the government initially tried to cover it up, sparking further controversy and anger.

The hepatitis B vaccine was added to China’s immunization program in 2002. To be most effective, the first vaccine is given on the day the baby is born.