by Senta Depuydt
As incredible as it may sound a group of elected members of the European Parliament has tried to get information on the Covid vaccines contracts signed by the European Commission for months without any success. After weeks of lobbying, a very small number of them was granted an exceptional favour in exceptional conditions. They were finally allowed to read excerpts of a 67-page document of the 400 million doses Curevac contract in a special reading room of the Health Department of the European Commission during a single visit of 45 minutes without the possibility to take any copies or use their mobile phones. The Commission however graciously allowed them to use a pencil and a paper… All under the watch of a Commission employee.
“It’s been a real fight to be able to see only contract. In September we voted to give an extra budget of 2,1 billion euros to pharmaceutical companies to boost vaccine production. In November we asked to know how much each lab would actually get from this envelope and where the vaccines would be produced. But the commission kept answering that it was all confidential as it was still in negotiation. I kept asking that for weeks, especially as a member of the budget control commission, it’s simply a part of my job. When I finally got to see the contract virtually every interesting information had been redacted, grants allocated, 2 pages with the names of the production units, pricing and price per dose, down payements and the pages on the liability for product defaults or vaccine injury were simply missing.
So how can we control what’s happening when we don’t know a single information? Who is liable if I get a facial paralysis as a vaccine damage? The member state, the manufacturer or the commission? I told the commission that this is an insult to the mission of the parliament. They claim to be transparent…But there isn’t any transparency here. We spend billions of public money, we don’t know where it goes and we don’t know who’s liable. This is unacceptable. I have issued a formal complaint against the commission for not disclosing these data. If the commission doesn’t answer I’ll bring it to the European Court of Justice in Luxemburg”.
Other selected readers of this invaluable document were equally angry and complained to Mrs. Stella Kyriakides the Health commissioner in the following plenary session. She replied that these were the conditions imposed by the vaccine manufacturers and that the commission had been forced to accept them as they had to deal with an emergency situation.
“I was initially surprised that contracts with pharmaceutical companies are not public. The general interest is that the customer, the citizen, through his representatives, should know what he is buying and under what conditions. […] If the contract is kept secret, it is not to protect the interests of citizens, but to protect the interests of multinationals, which do not want these elements to be made public, because they do not want free market competition”
According to him, European leaders have not been firm enough in the negotiations. “The Commission tells us, ‘that companies have imposed this to sign the contracts. But I’m sorry, it’s not up to them to impose this. And I would like to see which of these big labs would dare to openly say that because the European Commission imposes publication of the contracts, it refuses to deliver vaccines in Europe. For me, the major problem is the capitulation of the Commission to the demands of these labs. But obviously, if the manufacturer makes special deals with to the European Commission, he doesn’t want to be obliged to give the same advantage to others.
Ecolo MEP adds that it is not too late for the contracts to be made public. “It’s not manufacturing secrets that we ask to reveal but contractual provisions. And there is no reason not to make it public. If they are blackmailing people by saying, ‘if you force the contracts to be made public, we won’t sign a contract with you,’ the European Commission should expose these companies to public vengeance!”