China is suffering another health scandal, and it’s not the smog this time. Almost $90 million worth of vaccines were sold illegally throughout the country on the black market, and the people that received the vaccines are at risk for severe side effects and even death because the drugs weren’t transported properly.

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While the vaccines were formulated legally by licensed manufacturers, they were purchased illegally and then sold across possibly over a dozen provinces, and were not chilled correctly in the process of illegal distribution. They were peddled by a vaccine ring headed by a mother and daughter team; the mother is a former doctor, and no reasons were given for her motivation in this crime.

Related: China’s smog kills 4,000 people every day

The vaccines were purportedly sold at hefty prices, not only to others on the black market, but to local disease prevention centers. The ring worked for nearly five years, and included rabies, polio, and meningitis vaccines.

There’s a reason the vaccine ring was as successful as it was: red tape. It’s difficult for doctors and nurses in China to obtain vaccines they need, which only bolsters the black market.

The Chinese people aren’t angry just over the scandal, but also over the fact that authorities didn’t publicize the case for nearly a year. The mother and daughter were both apprehended last April, and the case was only announced recently to request that suppliers provide information to help the drug administration connect the vaccines with victims.

The Shangdong local drug administration is leading the investigation, and China’s national drug controller asked other provinces to cooperate as well. They will be working with police and health departments to dig into affected areas. They said they would punish all who broke the law in an attempt to appease the outraged public.

Via Reuters

Images via Shutterstock Wikimedia Commons and Pan American Health Organization – PAHO on Flickr