The National Anti-corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) has launched a probe into possible abuse in the purchase of a Chinese vaccine against COVID-19 manufactured by Sinovac Biotech.

"On February 3, NABU launched a pretrial investigation of possible abuse in the purchase of a Chinese vaccine from Sinovac Biotech at US$17.85 per dose via a private intermediary firm," as reported by the NABU Public Control Council.

"The case has received wide media coverage, since State Enterprise 'Medical Procurement of Ukraine' had initially entered into negotiations on acquiring a vaccine with an estimated cost of about US$3, and came to the final stage of the process. However, later, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov manually stopped the process and instructed that the authorities start talks on the purchase of a Chinese vaccine from Sinovac Biotech," the report says.

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The announced purchase price of a single vaccine dose has turned out to be one of the world's highest, while the drug's "overall efficacy" during the final stage of trials in Brazil stood at only 50.38%.

Read alsoReuters: Ukraine faces delay in delivery of Chinese vaccine in FebThat is why the Public Control Council addressed NABU with a corresponding statement and now welcomes the start of the pretrial investigation.

A preliminary legal qualification refers to the abuse of power or official position, resulting in grave implications (Part 2 of Article 364 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

COVID-19 vaccine for Ukraine

On December 30, Ukraine signed a contract with China's Sinovac for the supply of 1.9 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

The contract for supplies to the territory of Ukraine has been signed with Lekhim JSC, which, according to official confirmations from Sinovac Biotech, is the only authorized representative of the vaccine manufacturer in Ukraine. The purchase provides for 1,913,316 doses at UAH 504 (US$18) per dose.

Under the terms of the contract, the first batch of 700,000 doses will be delivered to Ukraine within 30 days after official registration in China, or by one of the competent authorities of the United States, UK, Switzerland, Japan, Australia, Canada, Israel, India, Mexico, Brazil, or under a centralized procedure by the competent authority of the European Union.

Read alsoHealth Minister: 100% of Ukrainians could have access to COVID-19 vaccine by end of 2021On January 13, 2021, Stepanov said, when concluding a contract for the supply of Chinese vaccine against COVID-19, the Health Ministry laid down the requirement for its effectiveness at the level of at least 70%.