Four top officials at ground zero of China’s latest vaccine scandal have been sacked and dozens of others disciplined after a meeting of the country’s leadership on Thursday, according to state media.
The government also ordered the seizure of all “illegal gains” by drug maker Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology, which made nearly half a million substandard vaccines for children.
In their first gathering since the end of the annual informal retreat in the coastal town of Beidaihe, the Communist Party’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, headed by President Xi Jinping, ordered the sacking of Jilin vice-governor Jin Yuhui, who had overseen food and drug regulation in the province since April last year.
Other top officials to lose their jobs included 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.
Meanwhile, 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 said Changchun’s vaccine scandal exposed many defects and loopholes in the country’s drug regulatory and vaccine production system. It called for severe punishments for violators and introduced new measures to beef up supervision of vaccine production.
China’s vaccine scandal: firm made 500,000 substandard doses, twice as many as first thought, state media says
In a separate meeting convened by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the State Council, China’s cabinet, said it would confiscate all illegal gains from Shenzhen-listed Changsheng Bio-tech and impose tough penalties on the company, without specifying the amount. The State Council also said the authorities would ensure strict pharmaceutical regulations and improve the technology used to make vaccines in China.
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.
One of the country’s biggest vaccine makers, Changsheng Bio-tech ignited national outrage last month when drug regulators said the company had systematically forged data in the production of about 113,000 rabies vaccines.
It had also made about 252,600 ineffective vaccines for diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus (DPT) that were given to hundreds of thousands of babies – some as young as three months old.
Further investigations found that the company had produced an additional substandard batch of DPT vaccines, raising the total to 499,800 doses.
The official investigation team discovered the first batch of 252,600 DPT doses was sold in the coastal province of Shandong, while less than a tenth of the second batch of 247,200 doses was sold in the southeastern province of Anhui, with the remainder sold in Shandong, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.
About 76 per cent of the children affected by the first batch had been treated, and plans were in place to treat those inoculated with the second batch of DPT vaccines, the Xinhua report said.
In Thursday’s meeting, the State Council also called for lower barriers for private investment in key areas of the economy, adding that it will fine tune economic policies in a preemptive way to keep growth within a reasonable range.