Chinese Company Developing Coronavirus Vaccine Previously Bribed Regulators For Other Vaccine Approvals

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The CEO of Chinese coronavirus vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech has bribed China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals in the past, court records show.

The company is one of two front-runners in China for a coronavirus vaccine, second to state-owned Sinopharm’s vaccine which has been administered under an emergency-use program, the Washington Post reported. The vaccine is expected to be approved in Brazil and Indonesia within a few weeks.

Sinovac said that its CEO and founder, Yin Weidong, cooperated with the investigation and was not charged in the bribery case. Between 2002 and 2011, Weidong gave more than $83,000 in bribes to Yin Hongzhang, a vaccine regulatory official. In exchange, Hongzhang helped “accelerate the approval process” for Sinvoc’s vaccine certifications, the Post reported.

During that time, the company developed vaccines for SARS, avian flu and swine flu. (RELATED: Johnson & Johnson Pauses Vaccine Trial After ‘Unexplained Illness’ Strikes Participant)

Hongzhang was sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from 8 companies, including Sinovac. Court judgements show that at least 20 other government officials and hospital administrators confessed that they took bribes from Sinovac between 2008 and 2016, according to the Post.

In 2017, the company said that they began an internal investigation into the bribery, but it has not announced any results from the investigation.

A Sinovac spokesperson told the Post that the bribery case did not impact Weidong’s ability to run the company and that they trusted that the legal system properly handled the case.