MEDICINE: BEIJING – Chinese parents stage rare public protest over vaccine scare

A child receives a vaccination shot at a hospital in Huaibei in China’s eastern Anhui province. – AFP

BEIJING (AFP) – About a dozen people held a rare protest outside China’s Health Ministry to demand action over a vaccine scandal that has inflamed public fears over the safety of domestically produced drugs.

Video clips of the daring demonstration in front of the ministry were widely circulated on Twitter and other social media yesterday, showing the protesters holding banners urging accountability and justice in the latest case.

“Legislation for vaccines is imperative! Handle this properly and responsibly!” they shouted in the footage.

Social media posts said the demonstration took place yesterday but AFP was unable to independently confirm that.

The fate of the protesters, whose banners described them as parents, was not known. An AFP journalist who arrived later at the location found no one there.

Chinese security personnel typically react quickly to shut down public expressions of dissent, often detaining those involved.

China’s latest product-safety scare emerged more than a week ago with news that major pharmaceutical manufacturer Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology had fabricated records and was ordered to cease production of rabies vaccines.

The government has said the suspect vaccine did not enter the market, but the case has provoked unusually strong outrage from Chinese consumers fed up with recurring safety scandals.

The protester’s banners bore headlines saying “Vaccines?” and messages including “Please give the victims justice”.

As information about the vaccine scandal emerged over the past two weeks, parents vented anger online, prompting the ruling Communist Party’s Internet censors to swoop in and purge mention of the issue.

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