Chinese state-run media and Internet users demanded action Wednesday after the deaths of at least seven babies since November following their vaccinations against hepatitis B.
China’s Food and Drug Administration has suspended use of the vaccine involved, manufactured by domestic producer BioKangtai, and is investigating, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
More than 44 million doses of the vaccine are in stock or have been sold to 27 provinces and regions across the country, the Beijing Morning Post said.
An eighth baby died after being given a vaccine made by another company, reports said.
The infants reportedly met their untimely demise shortly after receiving the hepatitis B vaccine. Four died in the southern province of Guangdong, though one death is said to be due to pneumonia.
According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, two babies in Hunan province and one died in Sichuan. Another new born hailing from Meishan City, Sichuan breathed his last on Monday within 24 hours of receiving a hepatitis B vaccine. The latest tragedy has taken the death toll allegedly linked with hepatitis B vaccines to eight.
China plagued with several public health crises
China is not new to healthcare product scandals. The country has witnessed several over the recent years. Accusations were hurled at the Chinese authorities for covering up the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus in 2003.
Five years ago, melamine-tainted baby formula milk killed six children and sickened 39,965. Public trust in vaccines took a beating when hundred of kids were sickened after inoculation against encephalitis and hepatitis B in 2010.
“This time, the authorities need to respond quickly to public concerns and suspicions, make a thorough investigation, severely penalise those responsible for the scandal and take the chance to better regulate the whole industry,” said the state run Global Times in a commentary.