Vietnam fake animal vaccines raise health scare

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A rickshaw driver transporting live pigs in the northeastern coastal city of Hai Phong. Vietnam's state-controlled television reported on May 28 that fake animal vaccines had been found on sale in Hanoi, including vaccines for blue ear pig disease, a disease that is spreading in some Vietnamese provinces. PHOTO: AFP 

Poorly preserved fake animal vaccines are being sold in large quantities in Hanoi, raising concerns over the implications for livestock as well as human health, Vietnam Television (VTV) reported Tuesday.

The fake vaccines are also being sold for the blue-ear pig disease that causes reproductive failure in breeding stock and respiratory illnesses in young pigs. These are being sold in small jars with Chinese letters on their labels for VND6,000 (US$0.3) per dose, nearly one-fifth of the price of genuine vaccines.

An investigation by the Nong Nghiep Viet Nam (Vietnam Agriculture) newspaper earlier this month found that the fake vaccines, which are sold at animal medicine shops in Hanoi's Truong Chinh Street the biggest animal medicine market in northern Vietnam, are being preserved during transportation merely by placing them between two cold water bottles, wrapping them in paper and placed in nylon bags.

One seller said once the vaccines transported in this condition reaches their destination, they can be stored in refrigerators' cool shelves (instead of the freezer) and used any time.

However, a technician with the National Veterinary Company (Navetco), a licensed vaccine distributor, said on condition of anonymity that vaccines for the blue-ear pig disease must be kept at temperatures lower than -15oC, Nong Nghiep Viet Nam reported.

He said the vaccines would be spoiled if they are preserved in the cool shelves of a refrigerator at temperatures of 9-10oC.

Le Van Nam, who has 30 years of experience in animal medicines, was quoted by VTV as saying that the fake vaccines are "dangerous" since their contents remain unknown to both authorities and users, and they could even bring other infectious diseases into Vietnam.

But Nguyen Thu Thuy, deputy director of Department of Animal Health, said the fake vaccines in the market are "limited" and only emerged recently when the blue-ear pig disease returned at the beginning of the year and vaccines' prices were quite high.

Thuy said animal health department has allowed seven brands of vaccines for blue-ear pig disease to be distributed in Vietnam, including three from China. All the registered vaccines have producers' labels in English and information about their origin, importers and distributors apart from Vietnamese instructions, the Nong Nghiep Viet Nam report said.

Blue-ear pig disease, also known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, is not directly transmitted to humans, but it lowers pigs' immunity and can cause secondary infections like salmonella, experts say.

Many cases of blue-ear pig disease have been reported in several provinces this year including Bac Ninh, Ha Tinh, Nam Dinh and Thai Binh.

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