Vaccine scandal sparks insurance debate

The recent furore over substandard vaccines has sparked calls for them to be included in insurance policies covering adverse reactions to vaccinations.

The scandal over substandard vaccines in China has sparked a vigorous debate about whether they should be included in an insurance scheme set up to cover adverse reactions to vaccines. 

At least four Chinese insurers — Zhong An Online Property & Casualty Insurance Co, Cathay Century Insurance Co Ltd, China Pacific Property Insurance Co and Ping An P&C Insurance Company of China Ltd — have developed plans to deal with the possible risks of adverse vaccinations, the Securities Times reported.

The news agency said the four companies are estimated to have sold about 100,000 policies.

And there are now calls for them to extend cover to ineffective or substandard vaccines including as a possible new business opportunity.

At the center of the scandal is leading vaccine producer Changchun Changsheng Bio-tech Co. It produced ineffective DPT (diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus) vaccines, which were distributed to over 20,000 children aged three months and above in Shandong province.

In light of the series of vaccine scandals, some parents are deciding not to vaccinate. However, vaccination is currently the most economical and effective way to prevent infectious diseases. Due to reasons such as individual differences, a small number of recipients may have abnormal reactions.

To better protect residents from suffering such risks, the government's "Healthy China 2030" blueprint calls for building a compensation mechanism by insurance for abnormal reactions to vaccines.

The State Council, or China’s cabinet, also rolled out polices to encourage the establishment of a compensation mechanism through commercial insurance and other forms and a multi-level compensation system including basic insurance and supplementary insurance.

Local governments in Beijing and Guangdong province unveiled vaccine injury compensation programs in 2016 and 2018 by teaming up with insurance companies.

Under the scheme, the government and enterprises are responsible for buying basic insurance for the first and second vaccines respectively, while vaccination institutions and families can buy supplementary insurance themselves.

Industry insiders noted that although the insurance compensation mechanism is a good means to deal with accidents, it should not pay the bill for actual fake vaccines.

Only when the quality of vaccines is strictly controlled can the mechanism be brought into full play.

Data from the Health and Family Planning Commission of Guangdong Province shows that last year saw the probability of severe abnormal reactions in the area stood at approximately 17 per 100,000 cases.

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