The CPC Central Committee's Standing Committee of the Political Bureau began listening to reports on Thursday as the probe into Changchun Changsheng Life Sciences Limited continues after nearly 500,000 ineffective diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) were manufactured in July.
The State Drug Administration (SDA) and others found that short-term equipment failure resulting in a manufacturing defect was to blame for the incident, the probe revealed.
The committee pledged to crack down on individuals that "challenge the bottom line of morality and conscience" and make them face more severe, zero-tolerance disciplinary actions, it stated.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has personally stood on the panel and has stressed the serious of the probe, stating that individuals should be held accountable and punished severely according to law.
"The case is a serious offense, in which the vaccine producer violated the law and relevant standards and regulations in pursuit of profits and fabricated false production inspection records," the committee stated as quoted by Xinhua news agency. "A number of local government officials and supervisory departments were found in dereliction of duty."
The committee introduced three policy changes, including tighter quality control monitoring and reporting, appointing professional monitoring and auditing teams, and severe punishments, including lifelong bans, would be imposed, CGTN mentioned.
Concluding the probe, the committee will hold 35 non-centrally-administered officials accountable. Xi also demanded resignations from Changchun's mayor, and Bi Jingquan, deputy director of the State Market Regulatory Administration in Beijing.
Health authorities have promised to revaccinate all children given the substandard vaccines.
Despite efforts to reign in unscrupulous companies, the Chinese government came under heavy scrutiny from a few mainstream media outlets and social media, who spun the story as a failure of the Chinese central government, rather than local authorities and the businesses themselves.
Mainstream Media Vultures Circling the Carnage
According to Reuters news agency, when the scandal broke, Chinese authorities arrested Changsheng chairwoman Gao Junfang along with 14 others for questioning. Gao is Changsheng's largest shareholder and the company was also privatised from 2003 to 2006, it noted.
Reuters dubbed public backlash towards the vaccine scandal a "social media tsumani", citing a Global Times article published Monday on reactions from social media netizens.
"The Changsheng vaccine case has created a tsunami on the internet," The Global Times stated on Monday. "If nothing is done to manage online public discourse, it could become a festering gateway leading the country toward chaos and creating serious unpredictability."
One Twitter user, named the Voice of Viet Nam, blamed Xi Jinping personally instead of local authorities.
"The number of faulty children's vaccines in China surges to over 900,000. How can the People ever Trust #XiJinping again," he stated.
The number of faulty children's vaccines in China surges to over 900,000.— The Voice of Viet Nam (@VoiceofVietnam) August 17, 2018
How can the People ever Trust #XiJinping again?@XHNews @globaltimesnews @CGTNOfficial @chinaorgcn @ChinaPlusNews @CNR_News @cgtnamerica @WelcomeVietNam @vietnamenglish @tuoitrenewsvn @MOFAVietNam pic.twitter.com/APsmL5OEoR
Another Twitter user called Xi Jinping an "emperor" and pointed the finger at the Chinese figurehead for all of China's problems.
"China emperor Xi Jinping donates billions of US dollars to poor foreign countries every month, but poor China people have no safe vaccine, no qualified medicine, no clean milk power, no healthy pork, no clear city air and no public health insurance in their fatherland," he stated.
China emperor Xi Jinping donates billions of US dollars to poor foreign countries every month, but poor China people have no safe vaccine, no qualified medicine, no clean milk power, no healthy pork,no clear city air and no public health insurance in their fatherland pic.twitter.com/WexlXXgNjS— 臺灣小英國防軍（Formosa Republic) (@SD2DZLFvP4eD3nZ) August 16, 2018
ABC Australia published an alarmist trove of quotes alluding to the 2008 melamine baby formula scandal on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform equal to Twitter. The scare occurred under the previous Hu Jintao administration.
"Milk powder is not safe to eat, vaccines are not safe to receive, childcare is not safe to go to. Made in China makes us terrified," wrote one anonymous Weibo user.
ABC resorted to quoting Beijing-based Zhao Lianhai, founder of Kidney Stones Babies, who asserted that parents were concerned about substandard vaccines for many years, but did not offer further details.
"If the institutional problems are not to be changed, the disasters are sure to continue. The problem of this country is the state's system," Zhao asserted.
"People have been brainwashed for so many years, they have no such thoughts of their own rights. Even when facing their own loved ones and children being injured or killed, they will choose to tolerate it."
The now-defunct Sanlu Group, which was owned 43 percent by New Zealand's largest multinational Fonterra, was found guilty of lacing baby formula with melamine, used to illegally increase protein counts. Six babies died and 54,000 were hospitalized after drinking the contaminated milk.
Four Chinese Sanlu Group executives were given heavy sentences for selling substandard products, the company was bankrupted after paying an additional $2.9 million, and families affected by the disaster were given free medical care and compensation in return.
Despite the social media frenzy, doctors have urged citizens not to jump the gun. Zeng Mei, Fudan University pediatric hospital chief physician, also told Reuters that the DPT vaccines were unlikely to cause harm to children.
"Parents are confused and lots are apprehensive," she commented.
"[There] have been no known reports of people being harmed by the vaccines [and] Chinese regulators ordered Changsheng to halt their production and recall the rabies vaccine," Reuters admitted July 24.