Brussels At the EU video summit by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with six pharmaceutical companies – including Pfizer, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson – Moncef Mohamed Slaoui already played an important role last Sunday. Because the former manager of the pharmaceutical giant Glaxo-Smithkline has recently been advising the EU Commission on its vaccine strategy as a special advisor.
Von der Leyen and her health commissioner Stella Kyriakides could use the Belgian’s support. Because the dispute with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra-Zeneca over the delivery of vaccines revealed the weaknesses of Brussels in the fight against the pandemic. Slaoui is to serve as a “hinge between the Commission and the pharmaceutical industry,” as a senior commission official told the Handelsblatt.
Not only after three decades of service for Glaxo-Smithkline, Slaoui is a pharmaceutical manager who knows the industry very well. The 61-year-old also has experience as a political advisor. Under the former US President Donald Trump, Slaoui headed Operation “Warp Speed” – the development and delivery of the vaccine against Covid-19.
The former head of the vaccines division at Glaxo-Smithkline had assumed the role of chief scientific advisor under Trump in May 2020. Its conditions: full powers and no interference. “I don’t know the bureaucracy. I don’t know how this world works and I’m not going to learn how it works, ”he said frankly. That was well received under Trump.
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But the commitment in the White House is over. In January, Slaoui resigned at the request of new President Joe Biden. Losing jobs is not a problem for the PhD immunologist. Because his skills as a consultant for the strategy against Covid-19 are urgently needed by the EU.
Slaoui’s task is to improve the hitherto difficult collaboration between the pharmaceutical companies and the EU authorities as quickly as possible. “We support all types of cooperation by industry,” said a commission spokesman on Tuesday.
The EU’s vaccination promise is shaky
Commission President von der Leyen promises to have 70 percent of all citizens in the 27 member states vaccinated by the end of summer. But this vaccination promise has long been shaky. “It is not enough just to hope for more deliveries and approvals in the second quarter,” criticized the budgetary spokesman for the Greens in the European Parliament, Rasmus Andresen, on Tuesday.
Consultant Slaoui therefore has to look for new ways. The proposal of EU Council President Charles Michel is on the table. He wants to force the release of patents if necessary, so that all possibilities for the production of vaccines can be exhausted.
Despite all the setbacks in the fight against the pandemic, including under his direction in the USA, the Moroccan native Slaoui is positive about the developments. “When it comes to the discovery of vaccines, their development and manufacture, we are faster than ever before,” the immunologist recently told the Bloomberg news agency. Now this success just has to reach all EU citizens.
More: EU sets up new authority for health emergencies – Astra-Zeneca supplies nine million more vaccine doses