Saturday, 19 December 2020
The publication on Twitter of vaccine prices by a Belgian government minister has damaged the negotiating position of the EU, according to experts.
The list of prices paid by the European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 27 EU member states, was published on the Twitter account of Eva De Bleeker (Open VLD), the federal secretary of state or budget. It has since been deleted, but not before copies were published widely.
Since the discovery, it has been explained that De Bleeker was in fact home asleep at the time the tweet was posted. However that does nothing to diminish her responsibility for the leak.
The prices the EU is paying to each of the six vaccine producers mentioned are a matter of commercial confidentiality, and the leak could harm Europe’s negotiating position in future purchase rounds.
Not only have the prices been revealed to the wider public, but more importantly they are now a matter of public knowledge to the other companies involved, and to other countries who are themselves negotiating vaccine prices.
For some of the vaccines, the prices paid by the EU are substantially lower than the price estimates reported when going into the negotiations. The cheapest vaccine, from AstraZeneca, was reported at €2.50-€3 a dose; the EU paid €1.78. The Pfizer vaccine was reported at €15.5 a dose; the EU paid €12. The Moderna vaccine was reported at €20-€30 a dose; the EU paid only €14.7.
A spokesperson for the Commission said the aim of transparency was a worthwhile one, but in the commercial world there could be no contracts without confidentiality.
“There are good reasons for this confidentiality. It is in the interest of the companies concerned, but also of the Commission, the member states and their citizens. If that information were public, it would weaken our position in other ongoing negotiations.”
Meanwhile the Commission declined to speculate as to whether De Bleeker’s breach of contract could lead to legal action, pointing out however that the leak “will not make negotiations any easier.”
The Brussels Times