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Top scientist behind China’s first COVID-19 vaccine expelled from Parliament for graft

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BEIJING, April 29: China’s top scientist, who developed the first inactivated COVID-19 vaccine at the height of the pandemic in the country in 2020, has been dismissed from Parliament for alleged corruption.

Yang Xiaoming, the chairman of China National Pharmaceutical Group’s vaccine subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), has been stripped of his membership in the National People’s Congress (NPC) due to serious discipline and law violations, official media reported here on Monday.

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The charge of serious discipline and law violations is a common euphemism for corruption under the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) disciplinary practice.

Yang, 62, is a veteran researcher who headed the CNBG – a vaccine subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm – and led a team that developed Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine, China’s first coronavirus shot approved for general use.

Coronavirus first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in March 2020 and later spread to the world, becoming the pandemic of the century and claiming millions of lives.

According to a statement by NPC, Yang is already being investigated by the party disciplinary body – the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

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The Sinopharm shot and Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac were the most widely used in China and the leading COVID-19 vaccines exported by the country.

Yang’s dismissal comes amid the biggest crackdown on China’s healthcare system, expanding a sweeping anti-corruption drive launched by President Xi Jinping in the last few years.

The crackdown aims to root out widespread corruption in a system plagued by kickbacks. It targets hospitals, drug companies and insurance funds, with dozens of hospital chiefs detained since last year, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Another former Sinopharm senior executive, Zhou Bin, who once served as the company’s deputy general manager, was placed under investigation by the CCDI in January.

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China’s national 863 programme is a state-funded and administered platform for developing advanced technologies.

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Yang’s team was approved for general use in December 2020.

Yang was among the recipients of a national award in September 2020 for his role in fighting the pandemic and was later recognised by the Chinese Society of Immunology as an outstanding scholar. He was also awarded the Ho Leung Ho Lee Foundation award, which recognises Chinese scholars in science and medical fields, the Post reported. (PTI)







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