Counterfeit vaccines draw condemnation in Indonesia

Sixteen people were arrested over their alleged involvement, having been accused of distributing fake boosters for diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis B and tetanus.
Counterfeit vaccine medication confiscated by the Criminal Investigation Agency of the National Police at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta. Indonesian parents were on June 29 being advised  to consult their doctors and consider re-innoculating their children as a massive counterfeit vaccine scandal sweeps the country. AFP / Handout from Bareskrim
Counterfeit vaccine medication confiscated by the Criminal Investigation Agency of the National Police at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta. Indonesian parents were on June 29 being advised to consult their doctors and consider re-innoculating their children as a massive counterfeit vaccine scandal sweeps the country. AFP / Handout from Bareskrim

Jakarta // Indonesian parents were on Wednesday told to consult their doctors and consider re-innoculating their children as a massive counterfeit vaccine scandal sweeps the country.

Police smashed a criminal syndicate last week accused of selling fake vaccines for more than a decade to health clinics across Indonesia, a vast archipelago of 255 million people.

Sixteen people, including a married couple believed to have masterminded the scheme, have been arrested over their alleged involvement. They are accused of distributing fake boosters for diseases including tuberculosis, hepatitis B and tetanus.

Indonesia’s health ministry is working with police to determine the scale of the problem. The national food and drugs agency has confiscated vaccines from nearly 30 health clinics, but it is not yet known how far the syndicate reached.

“We are working with the national food and drugs agency to collect data and take all measures necessary,” health ministry spokesman Oscar Primadi said.

“If vaccinations need to be redone then we will do it, it’s not impossible.”

The Indonesian pediatric association said parents unsure if their child could be affected should ask their hospital or health clinic about the origin of their vaccines.

“If you’re still unsure, you can redo the vaccination. It does not have any negative impacts on a child’s health,” association chairman Aman Bhakti Pulungan said.

The scandal was brought to light after a major pharmaceutical company alerted Indonesian authorities that some of its products had been counterfeited.

The case has caused nationwide concern and condemnation, with Indonesian president Joko Widodo demanding the harshest punishment possible for this “extraordinary crime”.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: June 29, 2016 04:00 AM

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