Chinese authorities announced Wednesday that 357 officials will face punishment over a scandal involving the illegal sale of vaccines. The case has triggered anger in mainland China and raised concerns over the private distribution of vaccines.
China's state news agency, Xinhua, reported that 192 criminal cases have been filed over the incident and 202 people have been detained in connection to the scandal, which saw improperly stored or transported vaccines sent to 59 health institutions. According to BBC, an illegal vaccine ring was in operation since 2011, and in April 2015 two women were arrested for selling some $88 million worth of vaccines.
A statement from Wednesday’s State Council meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang said that officials involved in the case will be fired or demoted, according to South China Morning Post (SCMP). The officials were reportedly from the national health commission, the China Food and Drug Administration, and 17 provincial and city governments.
“Vaccine safety is critical to children’s life and health, it is a red line that cannot be messed around with,” China Central Television quoted the State Council as saying, SCMP reported.
The State Council also reportedly approved revised rules banning drug wholesalers from selling vaccines directly. Authorities have also vowed to put in place tighter restrictions on the private market. The new restrictions will include the ban of individuals from operating any vaccine business if they illegally sold or transported vaccines.
A spokesman for the National Health and Family Planning Commission told SCMP that officials were working with food and drug administrators to develop a strategy to ban all sales, transport and distribution of vaccines without permits.