In an effort to eradicate measles, the Health Ministry of China recently announced a plan to vaccinate 100 million children nationwide. But the move has set off a popular outcry because repeated health scandals that have eroded the public's trust in government.
The 10-day vaccination, which is backed by the World Health Organization, targets all children ages 8 months to 4 or 14 years, depending on where they live. It will include remote areas, migrant communities and other places where previous vaccination coverage has been spotty.
But parents are not relieved. Instead, they are worried and suspicious. Since the Health Ministry announced its plan last week, authorities have been flooded with queries and e-mails from worried parents. Conspiracy theories refuting the safety of the vaccines are spreading via Internet bulletin boards and text messages.
The lack of trust on the vaccine issue is rooted in scandals of recent years, in which government agencies withheld information about the spread of SARS and bird flu; dragged their feet over the recalls of contaminated milk products that sickened 300,000 babies and killed at least six; and refused to find a connection between other vaccines and the deaths and illnesses of of children in one province.
The Health Ministry has planned a massive publicity campaign to coincide with its vaccination efforts, but so far it doesn't seem to be relieving parents' fears.