European vaccine prices revealed in Belgian Twitter blunder
Friday, 18 December 2020
Opposition party N-VA has demanded a full explanation after a government minister revealed the confidential prices of six different vaccines against Covid-19.
The information was revealed on Twitter by Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD), who is secretary of state for budget. The tweet has since been deleted, but screenshots have appeared in the press.
De Bleeker published the prices as part of a running dispute with opposition N-VA, which has claimed the government has no room in its 2021 budget for vaccines. Bleeker countered that there was €297 million set aside this year, with a provision of €500 million more for next year.
The figure of €297 million is broken down into the costs of the six vaccines in the pipeline: Pfizer/BioNTech, which will be the first to arrive, the others expected later being Astra-Zeneca, Sanofi/GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Curevac.
In her tweet De Bleeker not only gave global sums, but also listed the cost per dose and the number of doses on order.
So we see that while the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines costs €12 a dose, the Astra-Zeneca vaccine costs only €1.78. Those are the most expensive and the cheapest on the list.
The Pfizer vaccine, produced in Puurs in Antwerp province, also involves the largest expenditure, at €64,793,734. Again, Astra-Zeneca is cheapest, with a total cost of €14,610,834.
“Because the [budget] story was being kept alive on social media, we wanted to offer full transparency, but we have been a bit too generous,” said De Bleeker’s spokesperson. “Technically, those prices should not have been released, so we removed the tweet. A number of prices had already surfaced in the media in recent weeks.”
In the parliament, N-VA fraction leader Peter De Roover challenged health minister Frank Vandenbroucke over his junior colleague’s blunder. Vandenbroucke declined to comment on the specific case, only to point out that it is not customary to reveal details of contracts which the European Commission has negotiated.
And a spokesperson said the Commission would not be making any comment, with respect to the confidentiality of commercial negotiations.