The government of China has introduced new measures that will restrict dog owners from sharing their vaccination records with friends and relatives, and require vets to send vaccination data to the authorities.
The new measures are part of a nationwide vaccination campaign that will be implemented from September.
It comes amid rising concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 3,000 people in China in the past few weeks, and has also been reported in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Philippines.
The regulations will be introduced in provinces in the north-east, including Liaoning, where the majority of cases have occurred.
The restrictions will apply to dog owners in those provinces.
Under the new regulations, the vet will need to send their vaccination data via the Chinese Health Insurance Co-operation Centre (CHICCO) or the National Veterinary Office of China (NVAC) to the relevant regional or national government.
The vet’s local office will also have to submit vaccination data for the first time, as well as a copy of the dog’s medical records, to the CHICCO, which will then send it to the NVAC.
Vaccination records are normally kept in the owner’s name, but there are exceptions to this.
For instance, veterinarians can be charged up to 50,000 yuan ($8,100) for failing to comply with the new rules, which have been in effect for some time.
Vet’s can also be charged extra for copies of the vaccination records if the vets is a member of a local group that is involved in vaccinating.
The NVAC will send the records to the local government and to the Chinese Veterinary Medical Association (CVMMA), a non-governmental organisation.
According to the China Veterinary Association, this will allow vets to share their vaccination history with their patients.
“It will allow us to provide information about vaccination history of dogs and cats and also make them more familiar with vaccination information,” CVMMA deputy secretary Lu Ping said.
But CVMAC deputy director Wang Jiexin said the new measures will also limit vets from sharing information with people they do not know.
“There is no way for us to share our vaccination records in a way that will make people more familiar,” he said.
Vets are also barred from publishing the vaccinations they give their patients to the public, or giving them to anyone other than the vets they treat.
“If a vet decides to share the vaccinations, they have to be approved by the NVIC and the veterinary health authorities,” Wang said.
“We must also ask for permission before sharing the vaccinations.”
The Chinese Veterinary Association also pointed out that it has no power over how vaccinations are shared.
“The vaccination records will only be available to a vet’s supervisor,” Wang added.
“Vets can only use the vaccination record for their own patients and not others.”
Vets have to keep a copy for themselves and a doctor, and vets must also sign a non‑disclosure agreement with NVAC and the local authorities to prevent them from disclosing any information.
However, the association hopes that the regulations will lead to more transparency around vaccination.
“We hope that the measures will help curb some of the confusion around vaccination and will encourage more people to take part in the vaccination campaign,” Wang explained.
“The measures also give us the opportunity to improve the efficiency of vaccination.”
The vaccinations have not yet been fully tested, so it is unclear if the new restrictions will help vaccinate more people, or if they will just make the vaccines harder to find.
However, some experts believe the new policies will have an impact.
The Global Vaccine Alliance, a US-based group that campaigns for vaccination access, said it was concerned about the measures and said they were unlikely to have a long-term impact.
“They will be more restrictive than what we have seen in other countries, including the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Canada and New Zealand,” said Jennifer Scholl, the group’s chief executive officer.
She said that the vaccine was already being distributed in China.
But she added that she thought that it was unlikely to be as effective in China, where many people were still unaware of the new vaccination rules.
“This is another step to ensure the vaccines are accessible and that we do not need to rely on China to make vaccines,” she said.
As well as China, other countries that have introduced new vaccination restrictions include the UK and the US.