AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccines

AstraZeneca and Oxford University COVID-19 vaccines

According to Reuters, the prominent AstraZeneca Company, one of those that have developed and tested the COVID-19 vaccine, has already secured the inclusion of specific clauses in contracts with governments purchasing the vaccine exempting it from liability for any adverse side-effects!

In other words, anyone suffering side-effects of compulsory vaccination (ranging from temporary or permanent injury to death) will effectively be deprived of redress against the company and will only be able to claim against the government.

To make matters worse, the company CEO is refusing to disclose which governments have granted it such ‘immunity’, enabling the company to enrich itself through the supply of vaccines with no fear of any comeback even in the event of deaths among recipients.

On 19 August 2020, Greek Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Ioannis Lagos of the Non-Attached members raised a parliamentary question to the Commission. MEP Lagos asked the Commission “can it say what action it will take to clarify matters?” and “which Member States are among those that have chosen to risk the lives of their citizens by granting ‘immunity’ to this multinational?”

On the other side, the Commission has reportedly struck a deal with the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company making 300 million doses of vaccine available to signatory Member States. The vaccine is still being developed at the University of Oxford.

In return for guaranteeing such large quantities of vaccine to the Member States, the company is to receive substantial product development funding approved by the Commission. Apparently, it has also stipulated protection from future liability claims related to any serious side-effects of the COVID-19 vaccine that might appear down the line.

On 04 September, Belgian MEP, Gerolf Annemans of the Identity and Democracy Group posed a parliamentary question to the Commission. MEP Annemans enquired “is it true that that the Commission has made a deal to guarantee the availability of millions of doses of the vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford?” and “can it indicate the amounts and quantities involved?”

The Belgian MEP further asked “what is the situation regarding (exemption from) liability under the agreement?” and “how would any exemption chime with the provisions of the EU directive on product liability?”

On 23 November, these questions were responded to by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, responsible for Health and Food Safety, on behalf of the European Commission. Commissioner Kyriakides reported that “on 28 August 2020, the Commission signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for all EU Member States with a possibility to donate to lower and middle income countries or to re-direct to other European countries” and that “all Member States will be able to purchase 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with an option for further 100 million doses, to be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis”. She further explained, “the Commission ensured that the agreement with AstraZeneca is fully compliant with EU law and in particular fully respects and protects citizens’ rights, in line with the Product Liability Directive”.

In accordance with the Directive, Commissioner Kyriakides stated that ”liability remains with the manufacturer” and “in order to compensate for potential risks taken by manufacturers due to the unusually shorter timespan for vaccines development, the agreement provides for the Member States to indemnify the manufacturer for possible liabilities incurred only under specific conditions set out in the agreement”.

Commissioner Kyriakides declared that “the Commission has made clear throughout the implementation of the Vaccines strategy that it is not prepared to make compromises on the application of the existing rules that apply to bringing a pharmaceutical product into the market” and “these principles are equally valid for any indemnification clause the Commission negotiates”.

In closing, Commissioner Kyriakides said “the provisions on liability and indemnification do not alter in any way the regulatory burden of proof borne by the companies to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their products” and “any vaccine put on the market will have to meet the necessary safety requirements and undergo the independent scientific assessment by the European Medicines Agency as part of the EU market authorisation procedure”.

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