European Commission and transparency do not always go hand in hand. After weeks of criticizing the opacity of negotiations conducted by the European executive with pharmaceutical companies to pre-reserve (on behalf of the 27 Member States) vaccines against Covid-19, MEPs have finally had access, starting from Tuesday, January 12 and for four hours a day, to one of these contracts: the one negotiated, for 225 million firm doses and 180 million optional doses, with the German CureVac, the only firm to have agreed to reveal its contract .
Transparency far from total
The companies Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna (whose vaccines were recently authorized in Europe), as well as Sanofi-GSK, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, also entered into negotiations with the European Commission, for their part jealously guard their contracts for them. . But even when it comes to CureVac, transparency is far from total, quite the contrary.
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MEP Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe), head of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), nevertheless hoped that in Brussels, the moment of truth had rang. As soon as the “reading room” (strictly reserved for MEPs and not even accessible to their teams) of the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (“DG SANTE”, a stone’s throw from Parliament, led all talks) opened, he was the first.
The cold shower
For 45 minutes top time, after having to separate from his mobile phone and under the control of a European official, the elected official, simply provided with a notebook and a pencil, was able to consult the sixty pages of the precious document signed by CureVac and by the Commission. But from the first paragraphs, for the elected official, it’s a cold shower: to his surprise, entire parts of the document – and not the least – remain strictly confidential.
« In this contract, many key passages are crossed out, highlighted in black so as to be made completely illegible. “, Regrets the deputy, citing in particular” the price, the places of production of the vaccine or the legal liability regime to which the laboratory is subject “. However, it is precisely to find out more about these central elements that Pascal Canfin made the trip to DG SANTE. He deplores a ” limited transparency, which asks as many questions as it answers ».
Prevent a “shallot race”
However, for months already, the questions multiply. Admittedly, by taking the reins of these thorny negotiations, the Commission prevented a ‘shallot race’ between Member States, by ensuring that the 27 countries could have vaccines at the same time, in proportion to their population (15 % for France). But the methods and the total opacity dictated by the Commission and the industry raise questions.
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It was indeed necessary that the Belgian Secretary of State for the Budget leaked on Twitter a table detailing the price of the various vaccines so that they were known to the general public. Likewise, on the liability side, no one outside the circle of negotiators has ever known which regime had been chosen for each company. ” And then, we have the total number of doses, but the number of doses delivered per quarter remains secret … But we would have to know it to know if the risk of shortage will be avoided in the short term ”, adds Pascal Canfin.
A few hours earlier, Sandra Gallina, head of DG SANTE, had nevertheless told MEPs who are members of the ENVI committee that there were only ” minor elements That CureVac had decided to keep confidential.