A baby receives a vaccine shot next to a poster which reads "Standardize vaccination and build a healthy China" at a hospital in Handan in north China's Hebei province. Picture: Chinatopix via AP

Beijing - Chinese police have detained the chairwoman of Changchun Changsheng Biotechnology, a company that has provoked a huge public health scare after being accused of providing ineffective vaccines and forging data.

Chairwoman Gao Junfang, three executives and two mid-level managers were taken away by local police who are investigating suspected crimes in Changsheng's production of the rabies vaccine, according to a company filing Tuesday to the Shenzhen stock exchange.

The anti-graft watchdog in Jilin province, where Changsheng is based, said it was probing corruption at the company, which is China's second-largest rabies vaccine producer.

On July 15, the China Food and Drug Administration accused Changsheng of falsifying records and failing safety protocols.

A few days later, regulators announced penalties resulting from a separate November 2017 investigation into the pharma company over a sub-standard diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine, known as the DtAP vaccine, state media reported.

Changsheng's stocks have lost more than half their value since the scandal broke, provoking outrage online and leading to calls for stronger regulation and greater criminal liability for vaccine companies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday called for further investigation into Changsheng, saying the reports about the faulty vaccines were "terrible and shocking."

Premier Li Keqiang called for China's powerful State Council to investigate the whole vaccine industry.

The vaccine scandal is the latest of its kind in China, where problems with quality control and counterfeit products persist across industries from powdered milk to electronics.