Sunday, 11 May 2014

Xian parents say government has suppressed findings of side effect damage from kindergarten antivirals

by Michael Woodhead
One of the top Xinhua stories this week is a report from Xian claiming that the local government in the city has suppressed or manipulated the results of health checks on children dosed with antivirals by kindergartens.
The report is a follow up on the shock discovery that two local kindergartens had been routinely dosing children with antiviral medication. The so-called "Yao Er Yuan" [儿园] scandal (a pun on the Chinese name for kindergarten - You Er Yuan 幼儿园 - replacing one character with that for drug) was supposedly about schools dosing kids with antivirals to prevent them getting colds and to improve their attendance (and performance) at the schools. The practice was strongly condemned by health authorities, with the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) issuing a warning that this kind of practice was strictly prohibited, and calling on all local authorities to conduct checks on kindergartens. 
The children attending the kindergartens involved were referred to local hospitals to undergo checks to ensure that there had been no untoward effects from having being exposed to the antivirals. However, some parents are now saying that the checks have been a sham and the results of health checks have either been fabricated or suppressed. One parent quoted by Xinhua is a Mr Zhu, who says that his five year old daughter had suffered from renal impairment and haematuria from the antivirals, but this had not been picked up by the official hospital checks. He took his daughter to another hospital for a check up and they found significant kidney damage, but this was not reported by the official hospital. Further investigation by Xinhua reporters found that there were several hundred children whose tests showed that had experienced adverse health effects from the antivirals, but the official government figure was just 65. Further investigation revealed other anomalies. Many of the tests results were identical, suggesting they were not genuine but just copies. Discrepancies were also seen in ultrasound scans of children, which experts again said were not genuine. One parent reported that when he took his child for a scan he was given the 'result report' even before she had undergone a scan.
A Xinhua reporter put these claims to the local government in Xian, which responded by saying that the investigation into adverse effects had not been concluded and any figures released were premature. They said the concerns raised by parents and the media would be referred to higher authorities, which would take the feedback as part of its ongoing investigation into the antiviral dosing of kindergarten children.
[Editor's note: it might seem odd that a Chinese government newspaper is highlighting apparent government malpractice ... there may be more than this than meets the eye, or perhaps it is genuine attempt to expose wrongdoing as part of Xi Jingping's campaign against 'formalism' and 'poor working styles'].

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