(SKY NEWS) – A scandal over faulty vaccines has prompted an outcry in China and calls by premier Li Keqiang for an investigation.
Changsheng Biotechnology made and sold 113,000 ineffective rabies vaccines, and the company also fabricated production records.
In a separate investigation, the same company was found to have supplied 252,600 substandard diphtheria vaccines, eventually distributed to children as young as three months old.
The company was fined 3.4m Chinese yuan – about £383,000.
Outraged Chinese citizens criticised the company and authorities on social media.
One user wrote: “These vaccine makers ignore 250,000 children’s lives. Where is their conscience?”
Another posted: “Please sentence the suspects to death. Making faulty vaccines is the same as being indifferent to murder.”
Initially, mentions of Changsheng were blocked on Weibo and on WeChat, but now the vaccine scandal is among the top 10 topics on Weibo, with 570 million users looking at about 370,000 comments.
Some users have recommended not making posts with the “extreme anger” emoji to avoid their posts being deleted.
Li Keqiang has now instructed the government to investigate the country’s entire vaccine industry.
Last week an investigation by China’s Food and Drug Administration found that Changsheng, based in Jilin, a province in northeast China, had forged production records for about 113,000 rabies vaccines.
The agency removed the company’s licensing permit and the company has recalled all samples.
No one is thought to have been harmed as a result of the vaccine.
Stocks in Chinese pharmaceutical and biotech companies were hit.
Changsheng’s own shares were suspended on Monday after losing more than 11.52bn yuan – about £1.3bn – over the past few days.
Chinese drugs and food companies have faced numerous scandals over the past decade.
In November, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products was found to have sold 400,520 substandard DPT vaccines to public health authorities to be given to children.
In 2016, 200 people were arrested for another scandal over expired vaccines being sold across China.
In 2008, 50,000 babies were admitted to hospital when baby milk produced by Sanlu was contaminated with melamine, and six babies died.
A subsequent investigation found that 21 other companies also produced substandard milk.
There were further scandals over lead in children’s toys and over unsafe pet food.
People were quick to draw a link between all the cases.
One person on WeChat wrote: “Keep babies away from Sanlu’s fake milk powder, keep children away from faulty vaccines, keep the middle age away from P2P fraud and keep the old away from Hongmao liquor.”
Executives of online peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms have been prosecuted for fraud.
Earlier this year, a Chinese doctor said Hongmao liquor, which claims to have medicinal qualities, could actually be toxic.