China plans to punish 357 officials implicated in a scandal over vaccine distribution that reignited drug safety fears and highlighted the vulnerabilities in the country’s vast medical distribution chain.
The officials may face demotions or could lose their jobs, the state-run Xinhua news agency said late Wednesday. About 200 people have been detained over the scandal, Xinhua said.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last month called for an investigation into vaccine supplies after allegations that a mother-daughter team had been distributing shots that may have been compromised due to improper storage and transport. The scandal fueled outrage from parents on social media and on online public forums.
While the improperly stored vaccines could possibly be ineffective, they were unlikely to be toxic, the World Health Organization has said.
As the investigation continues, attendees at a State Council executive meeting Wednesday decided to change regulations so more vaccine products would need to be procured under official supervision, according to Xinhua. Systems will also be strengthened to track manufacturing, storage and transportation of the products, the agency said.
Fines for illegal vaccine sales or storage will be increased, while government officials who fail at oversight will be required to resign, Xinhua said. The cross-department investigation has been led by the head of China’s Food and Drug Administration, according to Xinhua.