Jakarta: The government is scrambling to save children exposed to fake vaccines as they are, at best, unknowingly vulnerable to diseases they are supposed to be immune against and, at worst, at risk of infection.
While the number of children exposed to the fake vaccines is unknown, the National Police have called it “nationwide counterfeit vaccine production and distribution” and revealed that these illicit activities have been ongoing since 2003.
The police are currently conducting an investigation into a counterfeit vaccine production and distribution ring following several crackdowns in three provinces, West Java, Jakarta and Banten. They discovered fake measles, polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and hepatitis B vaccines.
Investigators have arrested 13 suspects, who reportedly include eight fake vaccine plant owners, two distributors, two couriers and one maker of counterfeit labels. It is also revealed that the Drug and Food Monitoring Agency (BPOM) has been investigating the practices since 2013, when it received reports from the public about the fake vaccines.
BPOM therapeutic product monitoring director Togi Junice Hutajulu said the agency had not been able to determine how wide the distribution of the fake vaccine was.
“That’s why we’re asking all regional food and drug control agencies to see if there is any distribution of fake vaccines,” she said.
While the fake vaccines themselves might only contain harmless substances, the government is worried that the counterfeit vaccines could still cause infections.
“While these vaccines do not contain viruses, we’re worried about whether they are sterile. If they’re not sterile, then of course there will be reactions on the skin,” Health Minister Nila Moeloek said. — The Jakarta Post / Asia News Network