If Blockchain Can Save A Kid's Life, Will Paul Krugman Be Satisfied?
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Studies suggest people with anti-vaccine sentiments – ‘anti-vaxxers’ – are on the rise. Refusing treatment is a growing trend in America: in states that allow non-medical exemptions (NMEs), two-thirds have seen a rise in the past decade.
Routine vaccinations to combat smallpox epidemics in the 18th century was strongly opposed by religious figures. The English preacher Edmund Massey told followers in a 1772 sermon they were a ‘diabolical operation’, preventing God from punishing sin through contagion.
Arguments may no longer rest on the divine right to maim, but critics continue to cite inoculation as the leading cause behind medical disorders and the diseases they protect against. The activist and disgraced doctor, Andrew Wakefield, has argued for twenty years that the MMR vaccine leads to bowel disease and autism in children.
This is already starting to have consequences. Measles was eradicated in the US in 2000 but made a surprise comeback in 2014. Fifty-two visitors to Disneyland California contracted the disease with the vast majority being anti-vaxxers and children too young to be vaccinated. The outbreak led to mass-hospitalization and in one case, death.
“In the face of vast amounts of robust data supporting vaccination, the anti-vax movement is based on sparse and weak studies,” a university immunology researcher told Crypto Briefing. “It presents huge public health risks, such as the spread of measles and diphtheria, with potentially catastrophic consequences.”
The VeChain answer
VeChain (VET) announced on Friday it was working with DNV GL to provide a blockchain solution for vaccination provision in China.
The idea is to use a smart contract platform to create an immutable database that stretches down to every individual serum. IoT devices will collect data from throughout the supply chain that will be stored on the blockchain. Each dose will be labeled with a unique ID code that can be scanned to bring up information on how it was made, stored and transported.
People need to be convinced vaccinations are safe and secure but the vaccine manufacturing process remains a mystery for the vast majority of people. The recent scandal in China highlighted this: last month, a leading manufacturer was discovered to have supplied faulty, defective and even the wrong injections to hundreds of thousands of children across the country.
Generally speaking, parents refuse vaccinations for their children out of genuine concern. The anti-vaxxer movement is spread through fear inoculation could lead to life-threatening or life-altering illnesses.
Bringing transparency to the supply chain is what VeChain does. Just as with global shipping or logistics, the blockchain project argues it can bring far greater efficiency by recording data collected from every phase of the manufacturing, storage, and transportation process.
Implementing the same process in the vaccination process will also provide people with the information they need to feel safe about inoculations. Being decentralized helps to stop corporations or bad actors trying to cover up their mistakes. In light of the recent scandal, VeChain and DNV GL have specifically been asked to attend the China International Import Expo by the government.
VeChain is not the only blockchain project developing solutions. Waltonchain (WTC) also offered a traceability solution that hospitals and schools can use to build up a comprehensive vaccination record for patients and children across the country.
A blockchain vaccine solution for a crypto skeptic
A couple of days back, an article in the New York Times bemoaned the rise of anti-vaxxer sentiment in America. The paper also published an opinion piece by Paul Krugman the week before, explaining why he remained a skeptic of cryptocurrency.
Krugman (who predicted in 1998 that the internet would have as large an impact as the fax machine*) said he couldn’t support an asset which lacked inherent value.
“That’s why I’m a crypto skeptic”, Krugman writes as he concludes his op-ed. “Could I be wrong? Of course. But if you want to argue that I’m wrong, please answer the question, what problem does cryptocurrency solve? Don’t just try to shout down the skeptics with a mixture of technobabble and libertarian derp.”
Despite Forbes’ Jason Bloomberg describing the company “selling shovels in a gold rush”, VeChain has a reputation to uphold. The VeChain Thor platform implements a strict screening process. New projects hoping to launch on the platform need to provide evidence regarding what they add to the market.
This is why we are NOT crypto skeptics
Vaccinations are proven to work: they are a cost-effective means to provide life-long immunity against preventable diseases. Integrating blockchain into the process facilitates greater awareness and assurance for patients and parents that inoculation is a positive move: not something to be afraid of.
As is often the case, those most affected are the young and vulnerable. Small-pox is once believed to have killed one in seven children. Following the widespread use of vaccinations, the number of fatalities promptly dropped and it remains the only infectious disease to have been eradicated. No one dies of small-pox today.
Widespread vaccination practice needs to be protected. By making the manufacturing process more transparent, VeChain’s blockchain solution looks to assuage fears and concerns held by parents and public figures.
Hopefully, Mr. Krugman is satisfied with that answer.
Disclaimer: The author is not invested in any cryptocurrency or token mentioned in this article, but holds investments in other digital assets.
* Editor’s note: Prognostication is a tricky game. Krugman would later explain that his quote was a prediction outside of his particular field of expertise, and was intended to be ‘fun and provocative’. He suggested that use of this quote to rebut his crypto skepticism was ‘confusing technology with monetary economics’. He also predicted, in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory and a temporary slide in stocks, that “If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.” The DJIA rose from 18,589 on election night to 25,679 at the time of writing. That’s not technology, that’s economics.