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Chinese Authorities Bust Illegal Vaccine Ring

More than 130 people were detained in connection with an alleged plot to sell expired and improperly stored vaccines.

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Chinese police have detained more than 130 people suspected of illegally selling vaccines worth 310 million yuan — about $50 million — for five years, Xinhua reported.

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Authorities arrested a former doctor and her daughter suspected of selling 25 kinds of non-mandatory vaccines for adults and children — including vaccines against meningitis and rabies.

Investigators said the vaccines were expired or improperly stored. Most of the doses were administered, though authorities have also seized 20,000 unused doses, Hua Jingfeng, a senior official at the state's Ministry of Public Security said at a press conference.

While the World Health Organization said that improperly stored or expired vaccines pose a low risk, the public has panicked after the media reported some — such as an invalid rabies vaccines — may be "life-threatening."

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“The risk to children is lack of protection from the disease for which the vaccine was intended,” the WHO statement said. The statement has received 15,709 comments on Weibo since Tuesday.

Some people aren't are doubting WHO's statement. One person is a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Science named Li Qiang.

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"Let's not rule out the possibility that this is a fake account of WHO," he wrote on Weibo.

"...What about the children who received invalid vaccines for six years?" another Weibo user asked. "Government, please give a solution. Who will trust vaccination ever again."

The doctor at the center of the case was already subject to a suspended three-year prison sentence after being convicted of illegally selling vaccines on a smaller scale — she was also fired from her hospital and her medical license was revoked, according to Huanqiu.com, a news sit belonging to state-run People's Daily and Global Times.

Her daughter, who has a medical background, is suspected of helping her buy the vaccines before reselling them at higher prices, Huanqiu.com reported.

Twenty-nine pharmaceutical companies are suspected of selling the illegal vaccines, while 16 licensed vaccination clinics are suspected of buying them. Investigators are still tracking the flow of the vaccines, according to the press conference.

Beimeng Fu is a BuzzFeed News World Reporter covering China and is based in New York.

Contact Beimeng Fu at beimeng.fu@buzzfeed.com.

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