Is Beijing fumbling its follow-up to the vaccine scandal?


The Chinese internet remains in an uproar after news that Changchun Changsheng, a vaccine producer in China’s northeastern Jilin Province, forged data and produced over 250,000 substandard vaccines. As we wrote yesterday, Chinese citizens distinctly remember the state’s series of failures in recent years to ensure the security of food and vaccines, crisis after crisis, so the bar is set quite high for public confidence in domestically produced vaccines to be restored.

  • The good news: The chairwoman of Changchun Changsheng has been detained, the company has been fined over half a million dollars and is under investigation, and the substandard vaccines have been recalled. Alipay launched a feature to help parents track vaccinations their children receive. Also, fortunately, no reports have emerged of this particular batch of vaccines causing harm or death, but that was not the case in multiple previous vaccine and food safety scandals.
  • The bad news: As Jiayun Feng reports on SupChina, an official from the State Drug Administration (SDA) gave an astoundingly tone-deaf interview on Monday evening’s CCTV News Broadcast 新闻联播, China’s most-watched news program. Internet users roundly lambasted the official for his outfit choice — a luxury foreign brand polo from Burberry — his stiff, awkward language, and lack of eye contact with the camera.
  • Jiayun Feng concludes: “After years of high-profile scandals involving the SDA, the administration’s credibility is shot. It’s going to be an uphill battle for the agency to pave over its shattered public image. Xu’s recent interview was a bad start.”

The stock of Changchun Changsheng remains in free fall, dropping the “10 percent daily maximum allowed within minutes of opening trade, extending their decline since July 13 to 52 percent,” the Financial Times reports (paywall), and the company “does not expect its operations to be able to resume within three months,” according to Reuters. The FT notes that other pharma companies are also feeling the pain: “The wider Shenzhen CSI 300 Health Care Index, which tracks the performance of 22 pharmaceutical stocks, was also knocked lower, falling 1 percent following Monday’s 4 percent drop.”

The entire vaccination system in China is in crisis, the South China Morning Post reports, as it has been “tainted by corruption, weak regulations and staff shortages.” One former employee of the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control told the SCMP that the punishment received for selling substandard vaccines is actually miniscule, describing it as “only one hair on nine oxen to the pharmaceutical companies, and far from intimidating to them.”

Chinese State Drug Administration official mocked for awkward TV appearance