Tuesday, 19 January 2021
BioNTech and Pfizer have agreed to the European Commission’s requests to make their contract with the Commission available for MEPs to read, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides told the European Parliament on Tuesday.
The debate on the lack of transparency in the agreements concluded between the EU and pharmaceutical companies to reserve billions of doses of candidate coronavirus vaccines for the 27 Member States was the focus of the morning plenary session.
MEPs have been stressing the importance of access to the key information in these contracts concluded by the Commission, such as prices, liability clauses in the event of default, quarterly deliveries to which the companies have committed, and intellectual property rights.
At the insistence of MEPs, German company CureVac agreed last week to make its contract with the Commission available to them in a reading room. It was the first company to do so, but it is expected to be joined by Pfizer and BioNTech, according to Kyriakides.
She did not specify whether the contract will be visible in its entirety, however. The CureVac document was blacked out in many key passages, which several MEPs criticised strongly.
Nothing can justify the lack of transparency, according to MEP Dacian Ciolos, chairman of the Renew group. Ciolos pointed out the fact that the vaccines were paid for with public money.
Belgian MEP Marc Botenga was applauded when he ironically congratulated the Commission for “letting the company decide what MEPs can read.”
“You privatised transparency,” he said, accusing the Commission of flattening itself in the face of pharma lobbies, pointing to public funds that went to research and development and paid for production capacity.
“This opacity is an insult to democracy”, said Philippe Lamberts, co-president of the Greens/EFA group. He pointed out that the legitimacy of the decision-makers comes from the citizens’ delegation, of which the Parliament is the representative assembly.
“Beyond prices, it is crucial to know who will be responsible in the event of a negative effect or problem caused by the vaccines: the labs or the public authorities? We don’t know.”
Kyriakides argued that the Commission is in favour of transparency but cannot disclose confidential contract information without the agreement of the company concerned.
The Brussels Times