Dozens of parents of children affected by faulty vaccines in recent years protested outside the health ministry in Beijing on Friday.
Around 30 parents of children made sick by substandard and expired vaccines gathered outside the National Health and Family Planning Commission headquarters ahead of the annual parliamentary sessions in Beijing, calling on the government to deliver on its promises of assistance.
Vaccine campaigner He Fangmei said the parents-turned-activists had planned to use heightened media attention around the National People's Congress (NPC) meeting in early March to publicize their families' grievances.
"The two parliamentary sessions are about to begin, and 35 of us parents have come here to the health ministry to make our demands known," He said.
"We want the government to finish work on a Vaccine Law, taking into account suggestions from parents like us," she said. "That includes early intervention and treatment and guarantees in the longer term."
"We also want to see the health checks we were promised for our children implemented, and proper diagnoses made," she said.
President Xi Jinping demanded a thorough investigation into last year's tainted vaccine scandal at Changchun Changsheng Biotech, and promised severe punishment for those responsible.
But the authorities repeatedly detain, beat, and even "disappear" parent campaigners, who want the government to face up to its responsibilities and give the families hit by faulty vaccines compensation to help with mounting medical bills.
String of scandals
The Changchun incident was only the latest in a string of public health scandals surrounding fake, substandard, and expired vaccines that have had a devastating impact on the health of young children and on their immediate family.
Parent campaigner Ma Teng from Linyi city in the eastern province of Shandong said his child developed symptoms the day after being vaccinated against hand, foot, and mouth disease at Linyi's Machanghu Health and Epidemic Prevention Station on June 4 last year.
"They diagnosed it as pediatric snoring," Ma said. "We reported the adverse reaction to the Machanghua clinic, and later to the Linyi municipal health bureau, and received a diagnosis of an adverse reaction, but they didn't investigate further after making that diagnosis."
"My kid didn't receive the standard treatment, and the eventual diagnosis was that there was no link to the vaccine at all," he said.
Yang Suiwang, from Qilin County in the northern province of Hebei, said his son Yang Zhixiang was left paralyzed following a vaccination in 2015.
"His lower limbs are paralyzed, and the local government has been shirking its responsibilities," Yang told RFA. "I came to Beijing to petition about this, but they took me back to my hometown, and I said I would come back and petition again."
"I am looking for a job in Beijing now, while going to the Health and Family Planning Commission and the complaints departments to protect the rights of my child," Yang said.
Many parents say they were initially promised compensation and help with medical expenses, but that the assistance never materialized.
Zhang Zhonghua, whose child has suffered from thrombocytopenia, aplastic anemia, and other diseases following a rabies vaccine administered in Liaoning six years ago, said she has been seeking redress for seven years now.
"Neither the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health and Family Planning Commission, nor the manufacturer] Liaoning Chengda have given my son a penny towards his medical bills," Zhang said.
"Every time there is a major political meeting in this country, they tell me that they care very much, and that the case will be dealt with in a timely manner," she said. "But once the meeting is over, they don't care any more."
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.