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China Health & Science

Photo of Crying Single Mum Shows Harsh Reality of Healthcare in China

The heartbreaking photos of a desperate mother are going viral for the second time.

Manya Koetse

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A photo that is currently going viral on Chinese social media shows a crying mother in Shanghai kneeling down by her toddler son on the sidewalk.

The text accompanying the photo says:

On Shanghai Beiyuan Street, a single mother kneels on the street in the cold wind. She buries her head in her child’s arms and quietly sobs. The 3-year-old son suffers from hydrocephalus [“water on the brain”], and they previously came to Shanghai to seek medical treatment because he had an infection. After using up all their money, they were forced to leave the hospital. The helpless mother just sat on the street, feeling sorry for her child.

The photo received thousands of comments on Weibo today, with many people offering to help the mother out. “It hurts to see this,” some said: “She wants to be able to help her son, but she does not have the resources.”

Many Chinese face major obstacles in getting access to the healthcare they need. Under China’s current medical system, it is not easy for people from rural areas to gain access to medical facilities in the major cities, as they are not covered there and will have to pay for medical care themselves.

The issue is related to China’s hukou (household registration) system: government-subsidized rural medical insurance is often not valid in a different province, which means that villagers who fall seriously ill are not covered when they travel to first-tier cities for medical care.

So-called ticket scalpers (票贩子) take advantage of the system and people’s eagerness to see a doctor by using local identification cards to book appointments and then selling them to people without the proper documentation.

As for the crying single mother; this is not the first time these photos make their rounds around Chinese social media. The scene was captured on camera approximately four months ago, in early December of 2017.

It is not uncommon for the same story or photos to go viral again or to keep circulating on Weibo, similar to viral news stories on Twitter or Facebook.

According to Phoenix News, the mother is the 45-year-old Guo Yinzhen (郭银珍), who is a single parent since she divorced from her estranged husband some years ago. Her son’s name is Guo Zhenghan (郭政焓), and they come from a village in Datian county, Sanming, in Fujian – some 830 kilometers from Shanghai.

The photos were reportedly taken on December 1, 2017, when a reporter joined some volunteers to pay a visit to the Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital and came across the crying mother and then asked her about her story.

Photos from Sina.com

Guo Zhenghan was born in November of 2014 and has congenital hydrocephalus, meaning he already had it at birth. From 2014 to 2016, the child underwent three surgeries, but his condition deteriorated in May of 2017. Since November 2017 alone, the child was admitted to the hospital four times because of a potentially fatal bacterial complication.

Having used up all her money and still needing some 100,000s yuan (more than $15,000) for further treatments, Guo Yinzhen had no choice but to leave the hospital again, which is when she helplessly sat down on the street with her son.

In March 2018, Sina News also reported about this story, saying that Guo Yinzhen is a laid-off factory worker who has not been able to work since the birth of her child. Her parents are farmers who make a living by plucking tea leaves.

Sina also writes that the family has already spent 400,000 yuan (±US $63,000) on medical expenses, and still owe around US $47,000 in debts.

“I just feel so bad for the mother,” many people on Weibo respond.

“Since this is [the state of] medical treatments in Chinese society, parents have to make sure they can afford the medical costs if their child falls ill,” another person comments: “It is the best to purchase a commercial insurance. They’re not cheap, but even if costly, they need to buy it.”

In search of how Guo and her son are now doing, we found a buried Weibo post dated December 12, which only received four comments, in which a netizen writes:

On December 1, the crying single mother kneeling in the cold by her son has received ample attention. On December 5, with the help of the Xiaoxingxin Foundation, single parent Guo Yinzhen was able to bring her child Guo Zhenghan to Shanghai again for medical treatment, where the notable pediatric neurosurgeon Bao Nan operated the child. Thank you for all your care.

The update was also confirmed by the Xiaoxingxin Foundation with a post on Weibo (@小星欣公益), which also said that according to the doctor, the infection had gone and that the brain development of the boy was “looking good.”

“Why can’t we set up a system in which children will always be able to receive complete basic healthcare?” one netizen wondered.

On March 15, China Central Television reported that future reforms in China’s healthcare system will make healthcare more accessible and affordable, especially for rural communities – it does not say on what term these changes will be realized.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Jonathan

    March 27, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    The British NHS health system is the way any socialist state should follow:
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/18/nye-bevan-history-of-nhs-national-health-service

  2. Avatar

    Bren Branch

    May 20, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    No mother anywhere should ever have to go through this heart wrenching ordeal of having a child who needs medical care and not be able to get it.
    It is heartbreaking to see these photos. And the pain in her face and her eyes is real. She loves her baby very much. Her heart is so heavy for her baby. One of the most helpless and painful feelings in the world is one in which you think you are letting your baby down. I pray that care will be available to all children of the world someday soon; that no child need suffer because their parents can not afford the huge medical bills involved or there is no insurance coverage or medical care for their particular condition and the children are never left to wonder why they have to suffer so much. I would ask every Christian who reads this to pray with me and you ask the Father to be advocate for the children. Amen.
    This little boy is so adorable and precious. Look at his beautiful little smiling face. There is trust in that little face when he looks into his mother’s eyes.
    I would love to just hold him next to me in my arms and tell him things will be OK. I would like to put my arms around his mother and tell her things will be ok from now on, that she need not worry should he ever become sick again.
    God bless her and her baby boy and all the other mother, fathers and children like him. Jesus said Suffer (let) the little children come unto me.” Maybe we need to give Him
    more access to our children so that His Power be made more manifest in their lives. There is definite power in Faith in Jesus Chrisr ❤️

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China Health & Science

‘Cecolin’ Is Here: First Made-in-China HPV Vaccine Priced at US$47

China is the third country in the world to produce its own HPV vaccine, and it is cheaper than its foreign counterparts.

Manya Koetse

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While Chinese media praise Cecolin for being China’s first domestically produced HPV vaccine, Chinese social media users are more concerned with its price, quality, and availability.

In the first week of 2020, the first China-made HPV vaccine was approved by Chinese drug regulators. The domestically produced HPV vaccine became a major topic of discussion on Chinese social media. On Weibo alone, the topic received more than 580 million views since early January.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection with the specific viral infection that causes cervical cancer. The earliest HPV vaccine, ‘Gardasil’ by American multinational pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., first became available in 2006. Along with Pfizer’s ‘Prevnar 13’ – the vaccine deployed for the prevention of pneumococcal pneumonia – Gardasil is among the world’s best-selling vaccines.

With the introduction of the first Chinese HPV vaccine, the virtual monopoly position of Merck’s vaccine might now change as the Chinese vaccination is entering the market.

The Chinese vaccine is named ‘Cecolin’ (馨可宁), and was co-developed by drug maker Innovax (万泰沧海生物技术) and Xiamen University. It is intended for girls and women aged 9-14 (two shots needed) and 15-45 (three shots needed). According to CGTN, some 8 million shots will be produced in China in 2020.

Gardasil and Cecolin are not entirely the same, however. Gardasil is a so-called quadrivalent vaccine, which targets four different antigens (HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18), while Cecolin is a bivalent vaccine only protecting against HPV 16 and 18 types, the two most common viruses leading to cervical cancer. Another type of HPV vaccine is the nonavalent kind, the Gardasil 9 vaccine, preventing diseases caused by HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.

Nearly all sexually active people will be exposed to HPV at some point in their life, and if girls and women are given the vaccine before any natural infection with HPV, the vaccines have been shown to protect against pre-cancer of the cervix. Males can also get the quadrivalent and nonavalent HPV vaccines to protect against genital warts, anal precancers, or the spread of HPV to sexual partners.

While Chinese media emphasize the fact that China is now the third country in the world, after US and UK, to succeed in producing its own HPV vaccine, one of the topics receiving the most attention on Chinese social media is the price of the Cecolin vaccine.

Cecolin is currently priced at 329 yuan (US$47) per shot, which is considerably cheaper than the approximate $250 per dose of the Gardasil vaccine in the United States.

The nonavalent vaccine costs about 1300 yuan or more per shot in China ($186+), with the quadrivalent Gardasil being priced at approximately 800 yuan per shot ($115), and the imported bivalent vaccine costing 600 yuan per dose ($86).

Weibo user shares receipt of 9-valent vaccine, 1338 yuan per dose.

Many Weibo commenters praise the arrival of the Chinese vaccine and its relatively low price. A complete vaccination programme would now only be either 660 or 1000 yuan ($94/$143, depending on needing two or three shots) instead of $260 or more.

“Whoa that’s cheap!” some commenters write, with others saying: “This makes it possible for the poorer girls to get their shots.”

But there is also a lot of discussion on the quality of the vaccine, and whether the bivalent vaccine is effective enough (for clarity -the two HPV types the vaccine protects against causes 84.5% of all cervical cancers in China). Some Weibo users say they would still like to get the more expensive nonavalent vaccine instead – even if they will need to spend around 4000 yuan ($570) on their completed shots.

Other commenters are most concerned with the general availability of HPV vaccines in China, as there is still a shortage of vaccinations.

The imported HPV vaccine was issued 1,46 million times in 2017, going up to 7 million shots in 2018 and 8,7 million in 2019. On Weibo, some commenters say they have previously gone to Hong Kong to get their shot.

One user from Nanjing writes: “I made an appointment for my site and needed to wait for four months, I finally got it. I don’t want to wait around for the domestic shot to become available here.”

A Weibo user from Liaoning is appreciative that those who want to have the vaccine now have more options: “If you can financially afford it, you can choose the nonavalent vaccines, if you can’t afford it, you can get the quadrivalent or bivalent ones.”

Starting from May of 2020, Cecolin will be available at community hospitals across various regions in China.

By Manya Koetse
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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Health & Science

40-Year-Old Woman Completes Shanghai Marathon While 8 Months Pregnant

Pregnant marathon runner Lili clashes with Chinese traditional attitudes towards women who are expecting a baby.

Jessica Colwell

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A 40-year-old woman named Li Lili (黎莉莉) became news in China after she ran the Shanghai Marathon last Sunday while 32 weeks pregnant, completing the race in five hours and 17 minutes.

This was the third marathon Li has run during her pregnancy. She ran the first two during week eight (with a time of 3:54:43) and week 22 (with a time of 4:47:58) of her pregnancy.

Lily is an avid runner, having completed 62 marathons during her lifetime. Her story went viral on Weibo under the hashtag “8 Months Pregnant 40-Year-Old Woman Runs Marathon” (#40岁孕妇怀胎8月跑完全马#), which has received over 200 million reads at time of writing.

[Li has run three marathons during her pregnancy, one in each trimester.]

Her story has ignited debate across Weibo this week regarding the merits and dangers of vigorous exercise during pregnancy. In interviews with the press, however, Li remained defiant in the face of her critics.

“For many people, they are worried about this because they don’t understand it,” she told video news site Pear Video in an interview.

“Many people have told me it is dangerous. They criticize me, just like they criticized Chen Yihan,” she says, referring to Taiwanese actress Ivy Chen (陈意涵) who faced fierce online criticism after posting pictures of herself running while five months pregnant in 2018.

Actress Ivy Chen’s controversial Weibo post from 2018, showing her running 5 kilometers while five months pregnant.

“But most of these critics have never even been pregnant,” Li continued: “The fact is, I did this because I have a very deep understanding of my own body. I’ve run over 60 marathons, I am an extremely good runner. I’ve run a marathon in 3:28, which is considered an excellent time even for talented athletes, even for men. I have my own training methods, I’ve been training for a very long time, and have carefully prepared for these marathons.”

The reactions to Li’s story online have ranged from enthusiastic praise to outright condemnation.

“Wow! I admire how strong she is! It is said that each person knows what is right for them in their own heart. It’s none of your business what she does with this unborn hero!” gushes the most popular comment on Pear Video’s Weibo post about the story.

But another popular comment argues that marathon running is actually inappropriate for Chinese women in general: “Foreigners running marathons is fine, but this is not for Chinese women. Pregnant Chinese women running marathons is equivalent to them not caring for their children.”

The results from a poll put out by Chengdu Economic Daily so far show the majority of readers do not oppose Li’s decision to run a marathon, with 54,000 choosing the option “One case cannot represent the whole, it will vary from individual to individual” and 38,000 choosing “Support, if the mother’s body is strong enough.” Only 17,000 chose the option “Oppose, pregnant women should not engage in vigorous exercise.”

“What do you think of a 40-year-old woman running a marathon while 8 months pregnant?” asks a Weibo poll by Chengdu Economic Daily.

Some comments on the poll argued that Li was irresponsible to take part in a marathon, in case something did go wrong: “Problems come up when you least expect them. If it’s just you running on your own, that’s one thing. But this is a group race. I can’t say if it’s right or wrong, but it could bring a lot of trouble to other people.”

But the majority of popular comments expressed outright support and admiration, or at the very least opposition to Li’s critics, telling them to mind their own business.

The support for Li’s decision appears to fly in the face of Chinese traditional attitudes towards pregnant women. The list of dos and don’ts for Chinese mothers-to-be is long and complex, ranging from the bizarre (no eating/drinking dark foods so as not to affect the baby’s skin color) to the more common (avoiding shellfish).

The belief that pregnant mothers should avoid exertion is high on the list, extending even to the month after birth.

But despite these strong traditions, Li’s strength and determination have clearly inspired new support for expectant mothers who wish to continue an active lifestyle while pregnant.

Also read: ‘Sitting the Month’ – a Gift or Torture?

Also read: Bad Mom To Be? Pregnant Woman Intentionally Trips 4-Year-Old Boy in Baoji

By Jessica Colwell
Follow @whatsonweibo

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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