China has awarded ten years of jail to a former drug regulatory official for accepting bribes - Representational image REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

China has awarded a 10-year jail term to a former drug regulatory official for accepting bribes from vaccine manufacturers, a Chinese newspaper Legal Evening News reported on Tuesday, 3 January. The officer had reportedly helped companies get faster approvals for vaccines against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and bird flu among others.

The state media reported that Yin Hongzhang, the ex-deputy director of drug testing centre at China Food and Drug Administration, was awarded with 10 years of imprisonment. He was also fined 500,000 yuan ($71,864.89) for misconduct.

Yin's wife and son were also earlier sentenced for their involvement in the inducement case, where it was found that the family had taken around 3.56 million yuan ($511,678.05) in bribes from 2002 to 2015 along with expensive gifts that included ivory products.

The former deputy director and his family had reportedly helped drugs manufacturing companies set up their base in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese provinces. Yin had also eased the process for gaining approvals for vaccine companies.

In one instance, the former officer was found guilty of smoothing the drug approval process in exchange of getting a new house and its renovation; while, in another case Yin helped a firm cut off at least 3 years off an approval process by allowing it to jump a line.

Legal Evening News said that the sentencing of Yin – who was arrested in April 2015 – comes as the government has pledged greater scrutiny of vaccines after a scandal broke in 2016, which involved illegal vaccines worth of $90 million being sold in dozens of provinces.

Also in March 2016, a mother and her daughter in Shandong province were found to have illegitimately bought vaccines from traders and sold on to hundreds of re-sellers around China.

The imprisonment of Yin comes under an anti-corruption drive led by President Xi Jinping, who after coming in power in 2012, pledged to pick and punish culprits. Since then, dozens of senior Communist Party people, including Zhou Yongkang – who was once China's powerful domestic security chief – was sentenced for life.