Chinese vaccine scandal – not a concern for USA and many other countries

Recently, a Chinese vaccine scandal has been reported in many news sources. According to these reports, a Chinese vaccine manufacturer produced and marketed “low-quality” vaccines for infants. Moreover, they falsified production and inspection data on a rabies vaccine – as I’ve written before, rabies is a deadly disease, with almost 100% mortality after symptoms appear,  and the vaccine is the only choice to save lives.

This is an appalling story on so many levels. Authorities in the country had lax enforcement and regulation of their vaccine industry – the government was attacked on social media about the situation, a rarity in a communist country where free speech is strictly limited. As a result, the Chinese government will begin regulating their vaccine manufacturers more closely, although it may be too little and too late.

On the other hand, Hong Kong utilizes mostly “Western” manufactured vaccines, which has led to many Chinese citizens going to that autonomous region to get their children vaccinated. There are websites devoted to showing how parents can avoid Chinese vaccines and get the “good stuff.”

These kinds of outrageous ethical lapses generally do not happen in the USA, Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia, and many other countries. Falsifying data can lead to severe criminal prosecution and civil penalties, something that is far beyond the response from Chinese authorities to this scandal.

Of course, this has led to one of the most ridiculous myths of the anti-vaccine world – our vaccines are dangerous because they were manufactured in China. Under most circumstances, this would be a laughable myth, but with this Chinese vaccine scandal, it’s important that we know where our vaccines are manufactured – spoiler alert, they are made in the USA, Europe, Canada, and Japan, all of which have strict regulation of the pharmaceutical industry.

List of vaccine manufacturing locations

Here’s a list of the most important vaccines licensed in the United States with their location of manufacture (see Notes 1 and 2).

  • ActHIB (Haemophilus b, or Hib) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur SA in Marcy L’Etoile, France
  • Adacel (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis, known as Tdap) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Bexsero (Meningococcal B) – manufactured by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics S.r.l. (now owned by GlaxoSmithKline), Bellaria-Rosia, Sovicille (SI), Italy
  • Boostrix (Tdap) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium, and Marburg, Germany
  • Daptacel (diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis, known as DTaP) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Energix-B (hepatitis B) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • Fluarix Quadrivalent (influenza ) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Dresden, Germany
  • Flublock Quadrivalent (influenza) – manufactured by Protein Sciences Corporation in the USA
  • FluMist (intranasal influenza) – manufactured by MedImmune, LLC in the USA
  • Fluzone (influenza) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in the USA
  • Fluzone High Dose (influenza) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in the USA
  • Gardasil9 (human papillomavirus, HPV) – manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., in the USA
  • Havrix (hepatitis A) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • HIBERIX (Hib) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium.
  • Infanrix (DTaP) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium and Marburg, Germany
  • IPOL (inactivated poliovirus, or IPV) – manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur SA in Marcy L’Etoile, France
  • IXARIO (Japanese encephalitis) –  Manufactured by Valneva Austria in Livingston, UK
  • JE-Vax (Japanese encephalitis) – Manufactured by The Research Foundation for Microbial Diseases of Osaka University in Osaka, Japan. Distributed by Sanofi Pasteur in the USA.
  • Menactra (Meningococcal groups A, C, Y, W-135) – Manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in the USA.
  • MMR- II (measles, mumps, and rubella, or MMR) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA
  • Pediarix (DTap, IPV, Hepatitis B) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium, and Marburg, Germany
  • PedvaxHIB (Hib) – manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., in the USA
  • Pneumovax 23 (23-valent pneumococcal) – manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., in the USA
  • Prevnar 13 (13-valent pneumococcal) – manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the USA
  • ProQuad (MMR plus chickenpox) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA
  • Recombivax HB (hepatitis B) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA
  • ROTARIX (rotavirus) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • RotaTeq (rotavirus) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA
  • TRUMENBA (meningococcal B) – manufactured by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in the USA
  • Twinrix (hepatitis A and hepatitis B) – manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • VAQTA (hepatitis A) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA
  • Zostavax (zoster or shingles) – manufactured by Merck & Co, Inc. in the USA

(See Note 3)

Chinese vaccines? Nope

As you can see, there are no vaccines made in China. None.

Irrespective of the location of manufacture, the FDA states that vaccines:

…undergo a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficacy, purity and potency of these products. Vaccines approved for marketing may also be required to undergo additional studies to further evaluate the vaccine and often to address specific questions about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness or possible side effects.

Clearly, some anti-vaccine zealot will make unsubstantiated claims that this system doesn’t work, or Big Pharma buys off the FDA (with around 10% of drugs approved by the FDA, this seems like a specious claim).

So, can we dispense of this Chinese vaccine myth? Yes, China has a serious issue with the vaccines manufactured there, but no Chinese vaccines are distributed in most developed countries. Moreover, vaccines manufactured in the USA, Europe, Canada, and Japan are more strictly regulated.

Notes

  1. Although this list focuses on vaccines available in the USA, most of the manufacturing locations listed produce vaccines for the whole world. Some of those same vaccines are actually shipped to China.
  2. The Package Insert must clearly state the location of manufacture (if it’s outside of the USA), and the FDA has to approve that location through a thorough inspection.
  3. I think I covered every vaccine recommended for adults and children. If I missed one you think I should add, drop a comment. If you have more updated information about vaccine manufacturing location, drop a comment.
The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!