Discussions with various manufacturers.

JP – 09/2020

In June 2020, the European Commission presented its vaccination strategy to accelerate the development, production and supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This strategy aims to ensure equal and timely access to high quality, safe, effective and affordable vaccination for EU citizens.

A common European approach

While governments around the world, above all the USA, are concluding separate agreements with individual manufacturers, the European Commission has now been able to hold successful preliminary, exploratory talks with five suppliers – BioNTech-Pfizer following Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Moderna. On August, 27th 2020, an effective contract was concluded with a sixth supplier, AstraZeneca.

The agreement with BioNTech-Pfizer would allow all EU Member States to purchase the vaccine or to donate it to European countries as well as to low and middle-income countries once the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19. Currently, a purchase of initially 200 million doses - plus the option of another 100 million doses - is being discussed on behalf of all EU Member States.

Vaccine portfolio potential

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen particularly emphasised the speed of negotiations to date and assessed the increased chances of developing and using a safe and effective vaccine. Stella Kyriakides, EU Health Commissioner, considered the talks held so far with the six research-based vaccine manufacturers to be important steps "on the way to building a solid and diverse portfolio of potential vaccines."

Criticism of the previous approach

Against the background of the pandemic and the complexity of the vaccine market, joint procurement of vaccines at EU level is a promising strategy. Nevertheless, there is a risk of wasting public funds due to the pre-purchase agreements while reducing the risk for the pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Supposedly agreed clauses of the pre-contracts, which provide for compensation for the companies in case of a conviction to pay damages by the member states have also drawn criticism. In addition, the lack of transparency in the course of the contract negotiations, which were conducted in great secrecy while partly bypassing the specialist departments, has been a topic of discussion in previous news coverage.

The German Social Insurance system has long been actively committed to maintaining transparency and the targeted use of public funds. With regards to the promotion of COVID-19 vaccines and corresponding agreements with the industry, the European Social Insurance Platform (ESIP), of which the German Social Insurance Working Group Europe is a member, supports a current appeal by the Fair Pricing Coalition to ensure appropriate transparency, the observance of all due diligence obligations and high vaccine safety.