Shortages hit as China rolls out new vaccine distribution rules

Shortages of vaccines at clinics in China have predictably followed a move to eliminate middlemen from the sales chain over good distribution practice concerns, the Financial Times reports.

Earlier this year, the China FDA notified directives on centralized purchases and enforcement of a ban on wholesalers in direct vaccine sales to clinics at the provincial level. The directives come in response to a March scandal that uncovered the fact that, over several years, $88 million of vaccines were sold throughout China without adhering to storage and transport protocols.

However, clinics and companies were apparently caught flat-footed in some cases on supplies, the Financial Times said, adding parents are now visiting several clinics in hopes of finding jabs for their children.

In May, U.S.-listed Sinovac Biotech ($SVA) said first-quarter earnings were hit by the new rules. Other companies are having a hard time to adjust, though the China FDA said it expects the situation will be only temporary.

Still, Shanghai-based vaccine expert Tao Lina told the newspaper that the implementation was “a little bit too hasty." 

"This type of transition should not happen overnight, it should be a long process.”

According to the Financial Times, the logistics require safe shipment to 2,900 county-level clinics that need to be prepared to receive, log and store the vaccines according to the new specifications, putting pressure on the ability to match tenders with demand.

The actual guidelines were issued on July 20, but the regulator and government had notified the public and companies in May.

Separately, China National Health and Family Planning Council has launched a nationwide inspection of all vaccination programs in the past week, Xinhua reported, with random checks in progress.

- the notice from China FDA
- here's the story from the FT

- and one from Xinuha

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Sinovac hit by new rules on vaccine sales in China