Bitcoin Tycoon Li Xiaolai: Token-Free Blockchain Could Be the Answer to China’s Vaccine Crisis

The scandal over faulty vaccines from a major drug manufacturer in China has incited widespread fury both domestically and internationally over the weekend. It has led many to consider blockchain technology as a potential solution to China’s troubled drug industry.

Public outcry came after news reports showed that Jilin-based drug producer, Changchun Changsheng, had fabricated production and inspection records related to a rabies vaccine and hundreds of thousands of Chinese children had been found to be injected with the faulty vaccine made by the producer.

Chinese premier soon demanded ‘clear explanation’ in vaccine scandal and authorities have launched an investigation into the manufacture, revoking its license for production of rabies vaccines for human use and recalling all the vaccine in question. Even so, worried parents had  lost confidence in vaccines made in China and the vast pharmaceutical industry.

Against the backdrop of panic growing over vaccine safety, blockchain enthusiasts are calling for a blockchain-based solution. China’s high profile crypto tycoon Li Xiaolai, published an article on his public WeChat account on Monday, arguing that vaccine issues, in effect, is a public affair in the country and a ‘token-free blockchain’ is expected to offer an answer to these problems.

He suggested that the entire vaccine supply chain—from who produces it, who is in charge of its quality, which hospital or injection site does a vaccine go to and at what price, to who is given the vaccine shot and when—should be open to the public and a tamper-proof distributed ledger should be employed to record every step of a vaccine’s production and distribution.

He said that with a traceable token-free blockchain, it is easier to hold the person in charge accountable once a vaccine is found with problems. Given that the entire process is transparent and open, the blockchain solution will minimize the corruption attempts in the vaccine supply chain, and meanwhile, it will reduce the circulation cost.For children who may fall victims to inferior vaccines, it will be also easier for them to claim for damages. Last but not least, blockchain’s transparency can stem public panic which is arising from misinformation of different vaccines.

Although a feasible application which can track vaccine supply chain may not be immediately available, Li believes one will arrive sooner than expected.

“In fact, the token-free blockchain technology has a well-developed prototype so far. But it has been overshadowed by cryptocurrency speculation . And due to lack of practical and promising blockchain projects, either governments or non-profit organizations is unable to put those applications into usage. But I think it’s only a matter of time before implementing token-free blockchain solutions.”Li said.

But Xu Siyan, a researcher at Tencent Internet Research Institute,thinks that using blockchain to  track and trace drugs needs to overcome three obstacles: first, to eliminate fraud in drug production, as well as the incidents of stealthily substituting the original one; second, to ensure the reliability of data source; third, to encourage stakeholders to join the initiative( we need to introduce third-party agencies to regulate the operation).

In addition,  Alibaba’s Ant Financial has teamed with YLZ Information Technology Co. to apply emerging technologies like Big Data, biometrics, blockchain and artificial intelligence in tracing vaccine and deterring the outflow of prescription-drug since March.The result of this trial remains to be seen.

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