China's Communist Party has sacked a senior regional official over a vaccine scandal that inflamed public fears over the safety of domestically produced drugs, state media reported Thursday.
The government has been struggling to shore up public confidence in the pharmaceutical sector following the revelation last month that a major Chinese manufacturer of rabies vaccines was found to have fabricated records and was ordered to cease production.
The government has said the suspect rabies vaccines did not enter the market but the case provoked unusually strong outrage online from consumers fed up with recurring product-safety scandals, particularly in the drug sector.
The CEO of the company in question, Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology in the northeast province of Jilin, has been arrested along with 14 other people in connection with the scandal.
On Thursday, Jilin's deputy governor Jin Yuhui became the first political casualty, the official Xinhua news agency announced.
He was in charge of monitoring the safety of food and pharmaceuticals.
The decision to sack him was made at a meeting of the ruling Communist Party's elite seven-member standing committee, led by President Xi Jinping.
"Those who break the law and jeopardise public safety, notably in the matter of vaccines and medicines, should be severely punished," Xinhua reported, citing the meeting's conclusions.
"It ia necessary to encourage officials to work well and carry out their responsibilities in a serious manner," dealing firmly with any failings, the Chinese leaders added.
Six other provincial officials were also fired on Thursday following separate meetings by party leaders, Xinhua reported.
The officials had been responsible for food and drug safety in Jilin and its capital Changchun.
China is regularly hit by scandals involving sub-par or toxic food, drugs and other products, despite repeated promises by the government to address the problem.
Since the latest case came to light, the authorities have announced a nationwide inspection of laboratories producing vaccines, but many Chinese parents say they no longer have confidence in the medicines administered to their children.