Jilin-based manufacturer Changsheng has been found to have faked production documents related to a rabies vaccine given to babies as young as three months, underscoring the difficulties China faces in cleaning up the image of what is the world's No. 2 drug industry as it aims to promote locally-made vaccines overseas. Can we guarantee the health of our children only if we give them imported food and imported medicines?
Separately, authorities in Hebei province near Beijing announced on Monday that almost 150,000 people had received a substandard diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine made by another firm, Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
Changsheng apologised publicly in a regulatory filing on Monday.
Family members have also been jailed, the rights group said, while journalists who attempted to expose scandals have been removed from their positions.
It is unclear whether other areas were affected by the rest of Changsheng's supply of the substandard DTap vaccine.
The discipline inspection body of the Communist Party of China Jilin provincial committee and the provincial supervisory commission have ordered an investigation into and serious punishment of those found responsible for an illegal vaccine production case, official sources said Tuesday.
He called for authorities to "scrape the poison off the bone" in their efforts to rectify the vaccine problems.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has called for an investigation of a domestic drug manufacturer accused of violating regulations in making a rabies vaccine.More news: Facebook Stock Down 9% Following Q2 Revenue Miss, Slowing User Growth
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"Those involved will be resolutely punished with zero tolerance".
In the statement Sunday, Li promised to "resolutely crack down" on violations that endanger public safety.
In a statement released to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, the management of Changsheng said it felt "very ashamed and guilty" over the vaccines.
However, the inferior vaccine was found in October 2017 by authorities, but the incident hadn't been made public.
The fact that the main villain is a private company and not a government agency part explains why the scandal has been covered in the Chinese press, escaping the type of heavy internet censorship other issues often attract. The company was fined 2.58 million yuan ($282,000), and assets worth 859,000 yuan from the sales of the vaccine were confiscated.
Chinese censors on Sunday deleted articles and postings about the vaccine industry as an online outcry over the country's latest vaccine scandal intensified.
The China Daily warned earlier in an editorial that the latest Changsheng case could become a public health crisis if it is not handled "in a reasonable and transparent manner".
Indeed, the current allegations are being likened to the 2008 milk powder scandal, which saw six babies die and 54,000 hospitalised. The president also added that the investigation be thorough, the punishment severe, and the case's progress be publicised on time to address public concern.
Years later, nearly half of Chinese food-processing plants still failed to meet internationally acceptable standards, according to a 2015 report. Authorities have also caught several factories in the country that produce counterfeit versions of popular soy sauce and spice mix products.