China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appointed Shen Hongbing as its new head, replacing George Gao Fu, according to an announcement made Tuesday.
Gao, 60, will “no longer serve as director of the CDC due to his age,” stated the announcement published on the CDC website.
Public information shows that Gao was born in November 1961 and that Shen, his successor, was born in May 1964. Gao was appointed director of the CDC in Aug. 2017.
Shen is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and a former president of Nanjing Medical University.
Official retirement rules stipulate that male government officials “can retire” when reaching 60 years of age. But there are many cases of Chinese officials aged 60 who either stay in their positions or are transferred or promoted to positions in other departments.
Earlier this year, Gao stirred up online outcries with an essay —“Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus-Infected Pneumonia,”— that he co-authored with other scientists that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“[T]here is evidence that human-to-human transmission has occurred among close contacts since the middle of December 2019,” the article published Jan. 29 stated in its conclusions.
This statement created a public outcry in China with netizens blasting the CDC and Gao for earlier hiding human-to-human transmission evidence from the public.
Gao responded saying the essay was a “retrospective analysis,” according to Yicai, a state-owned Chinese financial news portal based in Shanghai.
Earlier, Gao said at the 2021 National Vaccine and Health Conference held in Chengdu, Sichuan, that China’s current vaccines had shortcomings with low protection efficacy.
He said China should focus on ribonucleic acid technology for mRNA vaccines used by some Western countries, Radio Free Asia reported on Apr. 11, 2021.
Gao denied what was reported following online criticism, claiming that his comments had been “completely misunderstood”.
He said he was referring to efforts to improve the efficacy of vaccines worldwide, which was “an issue that needs to be considered by scientists around the world,” according to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mouthpiece Global Times a day after the meeting.
Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech
The level of antibodies produced is one of the primary indicators of a vaccine’s efficacy. Currently, the two most used vaccines in China are Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine and Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine. The Epoch Times published an article in July, on how recent medical studies showed that COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in China by Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech lack the ability to cause the production of sufficient neutralizing antibodies to combat the rapid spread of Omicron variants of the virus.
Li Jing contributed to the article.