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Vaccine Report Fuels Media Onslaught

An explosive report on tainted vaccines has set off a public exchange between China’s independent-minded media on one side, and local authorities and official media on the other.

Last week the China Economic Times, a newspaper affiliated with the State Council’s research center, published a lengthy report linking the deaths of four children in Shanxi province to the improper storage of vaccines. At least 74 other Shanxi children fell ill, and some were permanently disabled. The report also raised questions about the vaccine industry in the province and the role of one pharmaceutical firm that dominates the local market.

Health officials in Beijing immediately vowed to investigate the matter, but local officials went on the defensive. Shanxi’s provincial health department issued a rapid rebuttal of the report, describing it as “fundamentally untrue”.

Other news media have also jumped into the fray. Over the weekend, the Southern Metropolis Daily published an editorial titled “Pressing the Media to Pursue the Shanxi Vaccination Scandal to End”. The Beijing Times added its own critical slant based largely on an official account of the event: “Vaccine-Gate Press Conference Lasts Only 15 Minutes”.

In another editorial, the English-language China Daily, which while state-run often shows an independent streak, also raised its own troubling questions: “How will this scandal resolve? Will the cases of alleged abuse end up being brushed under the carpet because political games are afoot?”

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