Fake vaccine scandal prompts Indonesian parents to rush to inoculate children.

By Indonesia correspondent Samantha Hawley and Ake Prihantari

A small medical clinic in eastern Jakarta is bursting at the seams.

The doctors and nurses are struggling to keep up with the demand, and babies cry as their parents line the humid corridors.

They endure a long wait to have their children re-inoculated after a fake vaccine scandal shocked the nation.

In Indonesia there are calls for the death penalty to apply to those convicted of being involved in the criminal syndicate police say operated for 13 years but only came to the public’s attention late last month.

The doctors, nurses and suppliers involved passed off saline solution, in some cases mixed with antibiotics, as vaccinations including for hepatitis C, hepatitis A, measles, tetanus and whooping cough, in a nation where the diseases are prevalent.

Yuliana, 27, told the ABC she was shocked and panicked when she discovered her nine-month-old daughter had received the fake vaccine.

“When she was younger she got a high temperature every month, she was often sick and her immune system was weak,” she said.

“I’m very disappointed and I hope they will get punished for it, because the victims are toddlers who are innocent.”

The vaccinations were sold as a superior imported product, which came with a much higher price.

Indonesian reports suggest one couple involved were making the equivalent of $10,000 a week through the illegal activity.

‘How cruel that doctor was’

Nuke Monilia, 30, who had always used the same doctor, was getting her two sons, aged five and 22 months, vaccinated again.


“I was torn between believing and disbelieving,” she said.

“I never thought this could happen, how cruel the doctor was.”

Indonesian police have arrested 23 suspects, including three doctors, and President Joko Widodo has called for calm while the investigation continues.

“The public needs to be calmed down because this is not a problem of the past one or two years, this issue dates back 13 years,” Mr Widodo said.

But that is a hard ask for the parents waiting at the clinic in Ciracas, East Jakarta, where the medical staff are bombarded by questions they cannot, or do not, have the authority to answer.

“The perpetrators deserve life sentences,” Tri Ratnaningtyas told the ABC, while waiting for her four-year-old son to see the doctor.

“I want them to be punished according to what they have done.”

As the cries ring out across the small building, a man named Maulana stands quietly holding his young son’s hand but expressing fears the real impact of the scandal might not yet have surfaced.

“Well, I basically want the suspect to be severely punished, by this I mean the death sentence,” he said.

This post originally appeared on ABC News.

© 2016 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. Read the ABC Disclaimer here.