On Tuesday, EU lawmakers were formally allowed to start viewing the Commission’s coronavirus vaccine contract with German drugmaker CureVac.
They haven’t seen much so far, according to Pascal Canfin, chair of the Parliament’s health committee and the first to view the document.
The price? Redacted.
The Commission’s down payment? Redacted.
The number of doses to be delivered each quarter? Redacted.
Canfin, a French MEP from the Renew Group, has been pushing for more contract transparency for months. Tuesday’s viewing was supposed to be a victory of sorts, allowing MEPs to peruse the EU’s contract with CureVac, which secured 225 million doses of its mRNA vaccine with the option to purchase another 180 million.
But the majority of the five items he and many other MEPs from the health committee wanted were redacted completely, partially redacted or not included — a “real pity,” in his words.
“Reading these contracts this way — partially transparent — is a first step,” he said, adding that he’s thankful to CureVac for being the first company to disclose the contract partially. “But it’s only a first step. It cannot be the end of the story.”
Canfin described a tense setup for MEPs wishing to read the contract: They must leave their phones behind and sign a confidentiality agreement before spending an allocated 45 minutes in the reading room to read the 60-page document, all while being watched by a Commission employee.
In that time, Canfin said, all the information he saw regarding the price of the vaccines — including the price per dose, as well as the Commission’s down payment — was redacted.
The two pages detailing the company’s production sites were also redacted.
The liability and indemnity regime, which lays out the extent manufacturers would be protected from legal and financial responsibility if problems with the vaccine arise, spans six paragraphs, two of which were redacted.
Canfin declined to disclose the content of those four paragraphs on grounds that “it would be irresponsible from my side to tell you anything I saw knowing there are two paragraphs … that could cover exemptions … an alternative rule, whatever.”
Canfin also lamented that the contract apparently doesn’t have any information about the company sharing intellectual property rights, a key item he and other MEPs have asked to see.
“It is very, very, very unlikely that it is covered by text that is redacted,” he said, calling it a “real pity when you see that we, collectively as taxpayers, contributed to investing in the vaccines.”
There’s also no mention of the “cost sharing” of the vaccine, which would break down investments the company and various governments have made in it. “There is nothing to control and assess this in the contracts,” said Canfin.
One point the contract does make clear: If any EU country made a deal with CureVac outside the Commission’s contract, these orders would only be supplied after the Commission’s order was fully completed.
This has become an issue after Berlin said it made additional deals for 20 million CureVac and 30 million BioNTech vaccine doses outside the EU deal — an apparent violation of the Commission’s unified strategy. Still, the head of the Commission’s health department and Germany have both said any such deals would be supplied only after the Commission.
“The quantities for Europe come first,” Sandra Gallina, the head of DG SANTE, told MEPs Tuesday morning.
MEPs have the next three days to view the contracts. Next, Canfin said, he’ll organize a meeting with the other health committee coordinators to form a “collective assessment” of the CureVac contract.
He will also push for all EU countries to release timetables for how many doses each should get each month, as France has already done, to determine when the EU will have enough to vaccinate 50 to 60 percent of its population.
This “very good approach” would “avoid fake news and populists debate — like we had last week in Germany — fueled by some parties for electoral reasons, blaming [the Commission] for not having enough vaccines,” said Canfin.
“But at the same time,” he added, “if ever there is a risk of shortage,” then it won’t be a surprise: That’s “not something that should be hidden.”
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MEP Canfin to Commission: We need more details on CureVac vaccine contract The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Politico.