China is to tighten management of vaccines to ensure people’s health and safety, especially young children and juveniles.
The move comes after a scandal in which a large quantity of improperly stored or expired vaccines have allegedly been sold nationwide since 2011.
Reports on the scandal were submitted on April 13 to an executive meeting of the State Council presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.
Revisions were made to update the regulation on vaccines, aimed at imposing stricter management nationwide and to prevent further violations.
For the first time, violators of the regulation will be forbidden from entering the vaccine business and officials in charge must resign.
Last month, police in Shandong province cracked a case in which 25 vaccines for children and adults worth 570 million yuan ($88 million) were not stored properly.
A mother and her daughter are alleged to have bought the vaccines illegally and sold them to 24 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions since 2011.
The State Council set up a special team to investigate the scandal and the regulatory system that failed to prevent the distribution of substandard vaccines.
Police have arrested 202 suspects nationwide and 357 officials in 17 provincial-level regions had been removed from their posts or demoted as of Wednesday.
Under the old regulation covering distribution and vaccination, which took effect in June 2005, some vaccines were provided by the government free of charge to people, while others were bought by people for optional vaccination.
With reduced supervision by disease control authorities, affordable vaccines could be bought freely, increasing the risk of contamination after improper storage and transportation.
The new regulation requires these vaccines to be incorporated into the provincial-level procurement platform for public resources such as free vaccines.
It also prohibits pharmaceutical wholesale enterprises from trading in vaccines. A new system will be set up to trace vaccines from production to use, with particular requirements for refrigerated storage and transportation.
Harsher penalties will be imposed on those who illegally trade in and improperly store and transport vaccines.
Jia Xijin, a professor of public management at Tsinghua University, said: “The revision shows the central government’s concern for the healthcare and safety of people, especially children. ... If the new regulation is implemented strictly, the quality of vaccines will be improved.”