Vaccine scandal in China

Chinese tech giants push vaccine search service amid country’s latest public health scandal

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 July, 2018, 8:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2018, 8:33am

Chinese internet search giants Baidu and Sogou have separately launched new online vaccine check tools, bolstering the government’s efforts to restore faith in the public health system amid the latest major scandal to grip the country.

The two companies’ new online search functions enable users to check whether a particular vaccine is among those found to be ineffective and substandard, as well as subjected to recall by China’s health authorities.

Alibaba Health Information Technology, the Hong Kong-listed health care flagship of Alibaba Group Holding, was first to introduce a similar online vaccine search service, on Tuesday in cooperation with online retail platform Taobao Marketplace and Alipay.

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About 95 per cent of vaccine producers in China share their records with Alibaba Health, said a company spokeswoman.

All the vaccine search results made through Baidu, Sogou and Alibaba Health are primarily checked against public records released by the China Food and Drug Administration and its research institute for food and drug examination.

“Over 200,000 visitors have used the vaccine query service since its launch in the middle of last night,” said a Sogou spokeswoman. “Users can also leave contact details to stay posted for updated information.”

The efforts made by those Chinese technology companies have come at a critical time when public outrage is growing over the latest vaccine scandal that emerged over the weekend.

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Two vaccine makers – Changchun Changsheng Bio-technology and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products – were found to have been selling ineffective DPT (diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus) vaccines that were given to children as young as three months old under government health programmes in Chongqing, Shandong and Hebei provinces.

Fifteen executives from Changsheng Bio-tech, including chairwoman Gao Junfang, have been placed under criminal detention, Changchun police said on Tuesday.

The companies in this scandal have been accused of tampering key data related to vaccines and producing substandard products.

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An index record showed search for vaccine peaked at Baidu with over 433,000 entries on Monday after news of the scandal became widely reported on the mainland.

President Xi Jinping on Monday described the country’s latest vaccine scandal as “appalling”. Xi, who was on a trip to Africa, said China was determined to clean up its scandal-ridden pharmaceutical industry, ordering local authorities to conduct an investigation immediately and release the findings to the public “on time” to ensure social stability.

New York-listed Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.