China said Saturday it has sacked six senior officials over a vaccine scandal that inflamed public fears over the safety of domestically produced drugs.
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.
Authorities say the suspect rabies vaccines did not enter the market. But the case provoked outrage from consumers fed up with recurring product-safety scandals, particularly in the drug sector.
Five officials at the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) -- including Deng Jianhua, who directed two departments -- were sacked, a statement from the State Administration for Market Regulation said on its website.
The sixth official was deputy director of the National Institutes for Food and Drug Control (NIFDC) Wang Youchun.
The vaccine scandal revealed that CFDA officials "did not sufficiently supervise and regulate, provided inadequate oversight and control, and conducted lax reviews of violations, neglecting their responsibilities through many loopholes," the statement said.
The CEO of the company responsible for the faulty vaccines, Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, has already been arrested along with 14 other people in connection with the scandal.
The company is based in northeastern Jilin province.
A dozen other officials were removed from office on Thursday, including Jilin's deputy governor Jin Yuhui, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Jin was in charge of monitoring the safety of food and pharmaceuticals.
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.
During the height of the scandal, clinics in Hong Kong saw a run on their vaccine stocks by worried parents from the mainland.