Chinese Healthcare: Is It Safe?

Living in Shanghai for the past five years, through trial-and-error, I’ve learned to avoid hazards such as fake eggs, fake meat, and fake milk. Now there’s a new threat on the rise, one that may not be so easily circumvented—fake vaccines.

On July 15th, ChangSheng Life Sciences had its license revoked for manufacturing fake rabies vaccines.

On July 19th, it was further revealed they produced faulty DPT vaccines, a combination vaccine commonly administered to children 6 weeks to 6 years old. The faulty batch included over 250, 000 vaccines, of which only 186 were left unused.

Despicable? Absolutely. Nationwide, parents tracked their children’s vaccine logs, praying not to spot the name “ChangSheng”. A quarter million bad vaccines! it boggles the mind how many were affected and what side-effects could have been caused.

What about rabies? Left untreated, it has a 100% fatality rate—a fake vaccine is about as lethal as a death warrant.

But there is a silver lining, right? The whistleblower did the right thing, blew the whole thing out of the water.

Not quite. The truth came from a disgruntled employee, who felt he wasn’t (properly) compensated for the dirty work.

The resulting fine (300 million RMB) was little more than a slap on the wrist to a 10 billion RMB corporation. Companies like ChangSheng tend to lay low after the scandal, then reinvent themselves under a new alias. Without getting to the root of the problem, the vicious cycle continues.

At this point, my faith in Chinese healthcare is as broken as ChangSheng’s plummeting stock, which may be the only thing that comes close to actual justice.

For expats living and working in China, it is a challenge navigating around the hazard trifecta: smog, fake food, and bad medicine; any one of these may cause long-term health complications.

Prior knowledge and preventative measures go a long way.

Stay vigilant and stay safe, friends.