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As China nears a coronavirus vaccine, bribery cloud hangs over drugmaker Sinovac

- WASHINGTON POST - Dec 4, 2020 -

Eva Dou -

A staff member works in September at a Beijing factory built to produce Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)

Chinese coronavirus-vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech is good at getting its products to market. It was first to begin clinical trials of a SARS vaccine in 2003 and first to bring a swine flu vaccine to consumers in 2009.

Its CEO was also bribing China’s drug regulator for vaccine approvals during that time, court records show.

Sinovac is now seeking to supply its coronavirus vaccine to developing nations, from Brazil to Turkey to Indonesia. While graft and weak transparency have long plagued China’s pharmaceutical industry, seldom has the reliability of a single drug vendor from the country mattered this much to the rest of the world.

Sinovac is one of China’s two coronavirus-vaccine front-runners, with its clinical testing in the same final stage as Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s. Domestically, Sinovac’s vaccine is in second place, with state-owned Sinopharm’s vaccines more ­widely administered under an emergency-use program. Another Chinese vaccine, developed by CanSino and a military research institute, is approved for emergency use by China’s military.


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