Four years ago, Qiang Qiang was a healthy boy. Now, he is epileptic and has trouble keeping up at school -- problems that emerged after a vaccination against Japanese encephalitis.
The seven-year-old is one of dozens of youngsters in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi whose parents believe their children may have suffered serious side effects from vaccines in the country's latest public health scare."His teacher at school tells us he is dumb, that he has short memory and cannot follow classes," his father Gao Changhong said."We have spent nearly 60,000 yuan ($8,800) to try to cure him, and we really hope the government will take this situation seriously."
A Chinese state media report last month said four children had died and more than 70 others in Shanxi fell ill after they received shots against illnesses such as hepatitis B and rabies between 2006 and 2008.
The China Economic Times report blamed vaccines that had been exposed to excessive heat and should have been destroyed.The report quoted Chen Tao'an, a whistleblower at Shanxi's Centre for Disease Control (CDC) where the vaccines were being handled, as a key source.
China's health ministry initially investigated reports of bad vaccines in Shanxi in 2008 and found no problems.
But a probe of the latest allegations indicated issues with "management" of the vaccines, though the shots themselves were not faulty when first produced, the health ministry said Tuesday.
It however insisted that the vaccines were not responsible for the four deaths.According to the World Health Organisation, vaccines that are exposed to high temperatures can lose their effectiveness and trigger reactions.