Conflicts of interest and total lack of transparency in relation to negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on COVID-19 vaccines

Conflicts of interest and total lack of transparency in relation to negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on COVID-19 vaccines

On 16 September 2020, Belgian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Gerolf Annemans of the Identity and Democracy Group, posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:

“Negotiations are currently taking place with the pharmaceutical sector regarding a COVID-19 vaccine. Deals worth hundreds of millions of euros are at issue here. However, there is a total lack of transparency in relation to these negotiations.

The Commission has set up a special committee in which the 27 Member States are represented. However, the actual negotiations are reported to be being conducted by a team of seven persons. It would appear that the names of these negotiators have not been published and that the negotiations themselves are being conducted in the utmost secrecy. However, the Commission promised to communicate in full transparency with regard to these negotiations. Apparently, one of the negotiators for the Commission is a former top-ranking official of the EFPIA, the pharmaceutical lobby.

1. How does the Commission explain the unjustifiable total lack of transparency in the negotiations concerning the purchase of vaccines?

2. Who are the negotiators on behalf of the Commission and by what procedure were they appointed?

3. If it is true that the negotiations on behalf of the EU are being conducted by a former top-ranking official of a pharmaceutical lobby, why has the Commission not taken any action against this manifest conflict of interests?”

On 8 January 2021, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:

“An open and inclusive dialogue with the European Parliament and citizens on the European vaccine strategy and its implementation is an essential element of this process.

To this end, the Commission representatives have attended Parliamentary Committees’ meetings and responded to numerous parliamentary questions. The Commission also organised a public event on the EU Health Policy Platform to inform the public about the process. Moreover, the conclusions of each step of the process strategy were announced publicly, providing key relevant information.

The joint negotiation team is a central body in ensuring that the negotiation process is effective and efficient and yields the result of purchasing a safe and affordable COVID-19 vaccine. In line with the decision C2020 (4192)(1), experts nominated by Member States work together with the Commission as one unit, the so-called ‘joint negotiation team’. On the Commission side, the negotiations are led by Director-General of the Health and Food Safety Directorate-General.

The Commission decided not to disclose the names of the members of the team in order to ensure that the joint negotiation team carries out its tasks independently and without being subject to undue external influence or pressure. Such pressure could indeed negatively influence or jeopardise the ongoing negotiation process and its objective of getting an access to a safe and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

Each member of the joint negotiation team signed a declaration of the absence of conflict of interest, which among others requires the members to comply with provision of Article 61 of the Financial Regulation.”


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