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Published: 27 months ago
 

Anger intensifies over fake vaccine scandal rocking Indonesia


It never occurred to Wulansari not to trust vaccines when she had her baby daughter inoculated against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib infection at Harapan Bunda hospital in East Jakarta in 2012.

But like thousands of parents, she is now demanding answers after Harapan Bunda, which ironically translates as "Mother's Hope", has been implicated in a fake vaccine scandal that has rocked the nation.

Wulansari shows her child's vaccine record book at Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta.
Wulansari shows her child's vaccine record book at Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

"I want an explanation from the hospital … I also want to know whether there will be any side effects," she said. "Perhaps they are not seen now, but what about when she grows older?"

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday called for calm after revelations that four criminal syndicates have allegedly been producing counterfeit vaccines throughout Jakarta and Java for up to 13 years.

Ria attends Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta with her child to ask for information related to the use of counterfeit ...
Ria attends Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta with her child to ask for information related to the use of counterfeit vaccines at the hospital. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

Police have named 14 hospitals and eight midwife clinics which allegedly administered the bogus boosters, creating havoc as angry parents flocked to the facilities.

Although corruption is endemic in Indonesia, a scam that knowingly put the lives of infants at risk has caused widespread anger and disbelief. "Producing false vaccines is a crime against humanity," thundered an editorial in Tempo magazine.

 

More than 20 people have been arrested, including three doctors.

It is not yet known how many children received the fake vaccines and are vulnerable to the diseases they were supposed to be protected from.

A parent with her child's vaccine record book at Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta.
A parent with her child's vaccine record book at Harapan Bunda hospital in Jakarta. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

Health officials claim, however, that the counterfeit vaccines themselves are unlikely to have caused harmful side effects given that they only contained antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

But trust is now in short supply.

Concerned parents are considering legal action against more than a dozen hospitals involved in the fake vaccines affair.
Concerned parents are considering legal action against more than a dozen hospitals involved in the fake vaccines affair. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

"They can say whatever they like because they know their children or grandchildren did not get a fake vaccine," says Wulansari bitterly.

Ria Rahma, whose 14-month-old daughter Louisa was also vaccinated at Harapan Bunda, said she didn't expect much, just information on what to do if her daughter had indeed been given a fake vaccine.

"So far I have received nothing from the hospital, all information is coming from the media," she added.

The government is offering free injections to all children who were initially vaccinated at the facilities named by police.

Mr Joko himself dropped in to a clinic at Ciracas in East Jakarta on Monday, where he said 167 children needed to be re-vaccinated.

"I'd like to ask the people to remain calm because it will take some time … to investigate [the case]," said the president, who had previously described the scam as an "extraordinary crime".

"I see this as momentum for all of us to fix the distribution system of the pharmaceutical industry," he added.

The syndicates allegedly stole old vials from hospitals and attached phony labels to them so they appeared to be imported vaccines from pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline.

Only a small percentage of vaccines in Indonesia are imported and while they cost far more, some parents believe they are safer than those that are locally produced.

Based on police intelligence, the four rings worked separately, according to Tempo.

"They had their respective turfs [of the market]," Agung Setya, from the National Police's crime investigation unit, told the magazine.

Public anger has intensified after it became apparent that the Food and Drugs Agency had been warned some time ago but little was done about it until a police investigation earlier this year.

"Glaxo reported the existence of the fake vaccine in 2011 to the police and BPOM [the Food and Drugs Agency] but there was no reaction," said Dr Mohammad Adib Khumaidi, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Medical Association.

Meanwhile parents whose children attended Harapan Bunda hospital have formed a group on messaging app WhatsApp.

"I will just follow the other parents, if they want to sue the hospital I will just go with them," Wulansari says.

www.smh.com.au/world/anger-intensifies-over-fake-vaccine-scandal-rocking-indonesia-20160719-gq8zw9.html

 

 
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