China jails two over vaccine scandal

BEIJING (Reuters) - A court in China on Tuesday jailed two people for selling vaccines without a license, state media said, after a scandal last year that sparked public anger.

The case, involving possibly as much as $90 million of illegal trades of vaccines through a black market drugs ring, underscored regulatory weaknesses in the world’s second largest pharmaceuticals market.

The court in Jinan city sentenced Pang Hongwei to 15 years in prison for illegally purchasing vaccines, including rabies vaccines, which she stored in warehouses in Jinan and another city, before selling them around China, Xinhua news agency said.

Pang improperly stored the vaccines she bought, and earned nearly 75 million yuan ($10.93 million) from selling them, Xinhua added.

She was also given another six years for a previous accusation of illegally trading vaccines, and so will serve a total of 19 years, the news agency said.

Pang’s daughter, Sun Qi, was sentenced to six years in prison for assisting her mother, Xinhua added.

It was not possible to reach legal representatives of either of them for comment.

The vaccines, including ones against meningitis and other illnesses, are suspected of being sold in dozens of provinces around China since 2011.

The government has said it has not found any spike in abnormal reactions to inoculations and that the vaccines themselves were real, though traded illegally and improperly stored.

($1 = 6.8588 Chinese yuan renminbi)

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel