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How to stay safe in the light of the recent Chinese vaccine scandals?

The recent Chinese vaccine scandals have yet again put in question the safety measures local authorities take when it comes to admitting vaccines into the local market. This time, a major vaccine producer in China, Changsheng Bio-tech, had produced ineffective DPT (diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus) vaccines. They were distributed to approx 215,184 children aged 3 months and above under the compulsory government health care system in the Shandong province. The vaccines are told to not be harmful to children’s health, but they are still ineffective protection against DPT. People in China are asking anew the question of how such a vaccine scandal could have been allowed to happen again?

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Other Chinese vaccine scandals

The DPT scandal was announced merely five days after the unexpected inspection uncovered that Changsheng Bio-tech has violated standards in the production of rabies vaccines. China’s second largest rabies vaccine manufacturer was subsequently caught fabricating data about production procedures. The company’s license to make rabies vaccines was revoked, and a criminal investigation may take place.

In November 2017, another Chinese vaccine scandal was revealed. This time another big vaccine maker, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products had sold 400,520 inferior DPT vaccines to Chongqing and Hebei health centers.

In May 2016, over 200 people in 22 provinces were arrested for running vaccine businesses without a license. Some state officials were also charged for intentionally buying illegal vaccines and using them on people at local public health centers.

In March 2016, a total of 570 million yuan (US$88 million) worth of improperly stored or expired drugs had been sold and applied across the country. Vaccines including those against polio, mumps, rabies, hepatitis B, encephalitis, and meningococcal vaccines were sold in at least 24 provincial areas since 2011.

In 2010, a China Economic Times article revealed that at least four children in Shanxi province had died, and many more suffered from severe side effects because of improperly stored vaccines between 2006 and 2008, which resulted in at least four deaths and over 70 children hospitalized.  

All of these Chinese vaccine scandals were severe and have led to people, especially parents, distrusting “made in China” products for children. This also relates to a tainted baby formula scandal in China in 2008, which left six children dead and more than 50,000 hospitalized, as well as other issues with toxic toys, tainted toothpaste, and more.

How to stay safe in the light of recent Chinese vaccine scandal

After so many health-related scandals in China, it’s understandable that some people do not trust local health centers with their children’s health. Out of fear for their children’s health and life, some parents decide not to vaccinate. However, it’s important to remember that without vaccines, infectious diseases will take away many more lives. Read more about recommended and obligatory vaccinations in China in our other blog post here.

How can parents vaccinate their children and still be sure that the vaccines will work to the child’s benefit, and not against it?

Private health insurance

In light of these scandals, expats often choose to be treated at private hospitals and clinics. China’s private healthcare sector offers a higher standard of care than it’s public counterpart and oftentimes buy in imported vaccines. Since vaccines – especially imported vaccines – can be costly, it’s a good idea to see if your current health insurance will cover this benefit.

Of course, being treated in a private clinic doesn’t always mean that you’ll automatically get an imported vaccine. Since China enforces strict rules on the import of vaccines, consult your doctor first about available vaccines and their origin. If you’re still unsure, there’s always the second option.

International health insurance

Those who can afford it may choose to fly to neighboring Hong Kong, Singapore, or virtually any other country of their choice to receive essential vaccinations. However, the cost of private health and vaccines abroad can be very expensive, which is why having an international health insurance plan is advisable. The right insurance plan, which would cover vaccinations worldwide, can save you not only a large amount of money but also provide you with peace of mind concerning your baby’s health

Find out if your insurance protects you the way you need it

Vaccination benefits usually fall under the outpatient scheme in most Chinese and international health insurance plans. It’s important to check which vaccines are covered and if there are any waiting periods implied. With the right insurance plan and a head full of China vaccine knowledge, no further Chinese vaccine scandals will be frightful to you.

It helps to check with your insurance broker or insurer to find out whether or not your health insurance policy covers vaccination benefits, and if so, to what extent. Protect yourself from defective vaccines and the high costs of receiving imported vaccinations by securing a private insurance policy. Feel free to contact any of Pacific Prime China insurance advisors about your current or future coverage today!

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