A crowd of angry Chinese parents gathered outside the Licheng Health Center in Jiangsu province on Friday and demanded answers about the seemingly bottomless vaccine scandal that saw thousands of children receiving substandard or expired doses of vaccine.
Scuffles erupted between protesters and police as parents demanded accountability for the scandal and hard information about which children were injected with expired doses.
A viral video caught a Health Center official surrounded by an enraged mob chanting “Beat him! Beat him!” The official does, in fact, appear to take a few punches during the incident:
Friday’s protest was hardly the first incident of public unrest over vaccines. A smaller and less physical group of parents dared to protest in Beijing over the summer, demanding “justice for the victims” of corruption and incompetence in the Chinese pharmaceutical industry. A series of scandalous revelations rocked China over the past year, with each new outrage erupting as soon as the previous one began to subside. This reinforced the public sense of distrust in both medical companies and government regulators, an attitude most unhelpful to Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s effort to rebrand China as a high-tech powerhouse and triumph of centralized economic policy.
Xi clearly appreciates how unhelpful this is because vaccine activists are beginning to disappear, stuffed into unmarked cars by the same type of plainclothes goon squad that makes uppity campus Marxists vanish. Protesting parents have been told it would be best for their children if they muted their criticism of the government. Online forums created by concerned parents have been censored. Activists sardonically note that locking them up is apparently easier than cracking down on corrupt and incompetent officials.
Friday’s protests were sparked by the latest outrageous revelation: at least 145 children in Jiangsu province were given expired doses of polio vaccine. Although local officials gave assurances the vaccine would be only slightly less potent than fresh doses and there was no reason to fear harmful side effects, some parents reported adverse reactions from their children.
The expired vaccines were discovered by a concerned parent, not government regulators, according to AFP. This does not reflect well on the central government’s copious promises to overhaul the vaccine industry after a massive rabies vaccine scandal made headlines last year.
The South China Morning Post recounted the experience of one father whose child had a visible reaction to the expired vaccine:
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 had 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 that 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 and what can we do if we have been given the [expired] shots, and what the consequences are,” he said.
The SCMP quoted Chinese state media reports that 17 officials from Jinhu County have been “put under investigation, sacked, or expelled from the Communist Party over the scandal.” At the national level, a new Vaccine Management Law is under consideration that would allow citizens to sue pharmaceutical companies if death or serious illness results from faulty vaccines.
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