Almost 40 Indonesian medical facilities procured fake vaccines

Ongoing investigations into the scale of the fake vaccine racket in Indonesia have uncovered counterfeits in 37 medical facilities across nine provinces.

The news follows the recent bust of a fake vaccine syndicate that had been operating in the country for more than a decade. At the time of the bust at the end of June, it was unclear how widespread the racket was, although 17 people were arrested and vaccines from nearly 30 health clinics were confiscated, while there were calls for children to be revaccinated.

Now Indonesia’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency (BPOM) says it has discovered fake vaccines procured by 37 medical facilities across nine provinces – South Sumatra, Lampung, Banten, Jakarta, West Java, East Java, Bangka Belitung, Riau and Riau Islands.

"We found 39 fake vaccines in all," said Arustiono, director for drugs distribution at BPOM.

Counterfeit vaccines so far discovered include Tripacel (combined vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria), Pediacel (combined vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib infection), Engerix-B (hepatitis B vaccine), anti-tetanus serum, polyvalent anti-snake serum and Tuberculin PPD TR23. There have been calls to publically release the results from laboratory tests.

The investigation into the racket resulted from a tip off from a major pharma company that some of its products had been counterfeited. Brands produced by GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi and Bio Farma are believed to have been subject to fake copies.

Health facilities in Indonesia are required to use vaccines that are provided by the government or distributed through official channels with rigorous safety procedures. But there is a demand for vaccines that come through unofficial channels, which then opens up the possibility of counterfeits flooding the market. The BPOM has also found that a number of internet sites may be operating as unofficial supply channels for fake vaccines.

Both the Health Ministry and BPOM have come under attack in recent days for not picking the fakes up earlier. The Indonesian Consumer Foundation said the government was culpable of negligence and has urged people affected by the fake vaccines to file a class action lawsuit against both institutions.

Meanwhile, the country’s Health Ministry believes at least 197 children had been given fake vaccines and will now roll out a revaccination programme next week.

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