Tuesday, April 20, 2010;
A worker, above, prepares prescriptions at Beijing's Capital Medical University Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital, which distributes around 20,000 doses of herbal medicine daily. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners are offering treatment -- including acupuncture, which is being performed on a patient at right -- as an alternative to vaccinations after a series of health product safety scandals. At least six Chinese children died in 2008 after drinking milk contaminated by the industrial chemical melamine. In 2003 and 2005, three suffered severe brain damage after being vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. Their parents blamed a substandard vaccine, something the government denied.
In the latest case, four children died and at least 74 became sick in the poor inland province of Shanxi, after getting vaccinated in March against illnesses including encephalitis, hepatitis B and rabies. One child died of encephalitis and one of epilepsy; the other two deaths were thought to have been caused by a combination of encephalitis and respiratory failure. The problems arose when the vaccines were spoiled by the summer heat, according to a report in the Chinese Economic Times. The Health Ministry immediately began an investigation, but spokesman Deng Haihua said bad vaccines were not to blame for the four deaths.
In 2007, a Chinese court found drug and food safety regulator Zheng Xiaoyu responsible for the approval of many medicines that should have been blocked or taken off the market, including six fake drugs. Zheng was executed