Vaccine scare-mongering risks epidemics

Updated: 2016-03-24 07:56

By Zhang Tiankan(China Daily)

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Vaccine scare-mongering risks epidemics

A Chinese medical worker prepares to vaccinate a young kid at a hospital in Shanghai, China, March 20, 2016. [Photo/IC]

One after another there have been postings on social media about the "dangers of vaccines" after a network illegally storing and selling vaccines was busted by the police. One of the most popular posts was one titled "Tragedies Caused by Vaccines", which blamed vaccine injections for the deaths and disabilities of 19 children, it was reposted many times accompanied by calls to "boycott vaccines".

Vaccine scare-mongering risks epidemics

What these posts will never tell you is that there is always a slight possibility that children will suffer an adverse reaction to a vaccine. Vaccines are inactivated pathogens, and they work by prompting the human immune system to produce antibodies to fight similar pathogens in the future. While most people do produce the desired antibodies after receiving a vaccine injection, a few, perhaps one in a million, will have adverse reactions because of their specific immunity conditions.

This is what the Japanese call "a demon draws lots", because although the possibility is low the unlucky person suffers a lot. Even if the vaccine is a genuine product, properly stored, there is always that possibility. Sometimes poor quality vaccines or irregular operation during their injection might cause adverse reactions, too, but the probability of that is also very low.

However, that's fundamentally different from the current vaccine scandal in which over 300 suspects sold more than 20,000 improperly acquired and stored vaccine shots, worth more 570 million yuan ($88 million), to health centers in 24 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions nationwide.

Vaccines must be kept at a temperature between 2 and 8 degrees Centigrade during storage and transportation, but the illegal dealers failed to do that; as a result, the vaccines they sell are no longer effective.

Those being injected with the vaccine will still get sick when infected with the pathogen the vaccine is supposed to protect against. This might have serious consequences, even cause fatalities, as the vaccines are for protection against serious diseases.

The authorities announced on Monday that those illegally selling the vaccine will be investigated and punished. But punishments should also be given to those in the health departments and the enforcers of the regulations that have failed in their duties, and the holes in the fences must be closed.

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