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by Christopher Tozzi, Aug 16, 2018

VeChain Announces Blockchain Vaccine Tracing Solution for China


Health

The Chinese government has spent the past several weeks scrambling to respond to a vaccine safety crisis. Now, at least one government agency has turned to blockchain technology and the IoT for a solution, according to enterprise blockchain provider VeChain.

A crisis erupted for the Chinese government in July, when it came to light that hundreds of thousands of children had received faulty vaccines manufactured by a Chinese drug company. Although the Chinese government didn’t knowingly allow the distribution of unsafe vaccines, it came under fire for failing to ensure that the drug maker respected safety standards and maintained accurate data about its products.

The issue was particularly damaging for the Chinese government from a public-relations perspective because it represents the third major drug safety crisis to make headlines in the country in the past decade. It also followed similar problems related to food safety.

Blockchain Technology, IoT and Vaccine Traceability 

If you’re struggling to ensure that data related to public health is kept safe and transparent, how do you respond? A blockchain platform can be a way to store data more reliably and securely.

In a blog post published earlier this month, VeChain announced that it had been “tasked to achieve” a blockchain-based solution for recording data related to vaccine production in China. 

The blog post noted that VeChain will use “highly sensitive IoT devices” to record data during the vaccine production process and then store that data on VeChainThor, VeChain’s enterprise blockchain. The solution ensures “the reliability of the data source” while also eliminating “the potential risks in the whole process and ensures that vaccine records are immutable and permanent,” per the company. 

VeChain is developing the solution in partnership with DNV GL, a Norwegian company that provides certification and business assurance services. DNV GL is also an equity investor in VeChain. 

Private Solutions to a Government Problem

There’s no sign that the Chinese government has officially endorsed VeChain’s blockchain platform for helping to prevent future vaccine safety issues, or that any government agencies are collaborating with VeChain in developing the platform. The information available from VeChain instead suggests that the company is developing the solution independently from Chinese agencies, with the help of DNV GL.

However, because VeChain enjoys official endorsement by Chinese government agencies as a provider of blockchain solutions — a status that is not easy to obtain in China — its vaccine traceability solution could prove particularly important as officials work to prevent the recurrence of the type of public health and public relations crisis that unsafe vaccinations triggered this summer.

It’s worth noting, too, that VeChain has a history of collaborating with other government agencies in China around blockchain initiatives, although the vaccine traceability solution appears to be the company’s first venture in China related to public health and the drug industry.

VeChain noted that its vaccine data-tracking solution “is being developed and tested in Shanghai, and will soon be rolled out across China.” There’s no indication of what, exactly, “soon” means in this case. 

Advancing Blockchain/IoT Integrations

While much of the buzz surrounding VeChain’s announcement stems from its timeliness in helping to address what has become a high-profile scandal in China, the news is equally significant as another example of an IoT-driven blockchain application.

By using IoT sensors to record data to the blockchain, presumably in a highly automated fashion, VeChain’s vaccine traceability solution could serve as a proof of concept for the ways in which smart devices can be combined with a blockchain to build seamless and highly reliable data-recording solutions. 

So, while it would be a mistake to read too much into what VeChain’s announcement means for the Chinese government and blockchain technology, this news comes as an important sign of what the future holds for integrations between enterprise blockchains and the IoT.