Are Vaccines Made In China?

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

Female scientist pouring liquid into beaker
altrendo images / Getty Images

Q. I am concerned about all of the reports of problems with toys, pet food, and other products that are made in China. Are vaccines made in China? Gina, Ft. Worth, Texas

A. It is easy to understand your concern, as there were once a lot of recalled products that had been made in China, including the:

  • toothpaste recall, which contained a poisonous chemical, diethylene glycol (DEG)
  • pet food recall, which sickened and killed dogs and cats because the food was contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical

We don't here about these kinds of recalls as often though. Still, many of us remember stories of baby food in China that contained melamine, so it is understandable to be concerned.

Are Vaccines Made In China?

Well, some vaccines that are used in China probably are made in China, but you can be reassured that those that are used in the United States are not.

While many vaccines aren't made in the United States anymore, the vaccines in the yearly United States Childhood Immunization Schedule are made in countries where the FDA can closely monitor the manufacturing process of the vaccines for quality and safety.

For example, Rotarix, the rotavirus vaccine that was approved in April 2008 by the FDA, is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium.

Where Are Our Vaccines Made?

If not China, then where are our vaccines made?

Even IXIARO, a Japanese Encephalitis vaccine, which is mainly used when people travel to areas of the world where Japanese Encephalitis is a problem, is surprisingly, made in the UK. Another, JE-VAX, is made in Japan.

Most of the other vaccines are used in the United States are made in France, Canada, Belgium, Germany, or the United States, including:

  • ActHIB (Hib) - Sanofi Pasteur SA in Lyon, France
  • Adacel (Tdap) - Sanofi Pasteur Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Bexsero (Meningococcal B)- Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics S.r.l., Bellaria-Rosia 53018, Sovicille (SI), Italy
  • Boostrix (Tdap) - GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium and Wavre, Belgium
  • Daptacel (DTaP) - Sanofi Pasteur Limited in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Energix-B (Hepatitis B) - GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • FluMist (Influenza) - MedImmune Vaccines, Inc. in Gaithersburg, Maryland and Wyeth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Fluzone (Influenza) - Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania
  • Gardasil (HPV) - Merck & Co., Inc., West Point, PA.
  • Havrix (Hepatitis A) - GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • Infanrix (DTaP) - GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, but manufactured by Chiron-Behring GmbH & Co. in Marburg, Germany
  • IPOL (IPV) - Sanofi Pasteur SA in Lyon, France
  • Menactra (Meningococcal) - Sanofi Pasteur, Inc. in Swiftwater, Pennsylvania
  • Pediarix (DTap, IPV, Hepatitis B) - GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals in Rixensart, Belgium
  • PedvaxHIB (Hib) - Merck & Co., Inc., in West Point, Pennsylvania
  • Prevnar (Pneumococcal) - Lederle Laboratories in Sanford, North Carolina and Pearl River, New York

The FDA states that vaccines are "rigorously scrutinized for their effectiveness and safety" and that the FDA requires manufacturers to test vaccine samples from each lot and "carries out spot-testing of its own."

Sources:

FDA. Contaminated Toothpaste from China Frequently Asked Questions.

FDA. Pet Food Recall/Contaminated Feed Frequently Asked Questions.

FDA Fact Sheet. Vaccines Provide Effective Protection and FDA Makes Sure They are Safe.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Vaccines Licensed for Immunization and Distribution in the US.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Vaccines Licensed for Immunization and Distribution in the US with Supporting Documents. Accessed January 2016.

Continue Reading