The announcement of the American pharmaceutical company Moderna of the preliminary success in its research on a vaccine against covid-19 has once again caught the European Commission with a different foot. Like last week with Pfizer, Brussels has been negotiating with Moderna for months but has yet to finalize the acquisition agreement. At the same juncture, he was surprised last week by the announcement of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine, although only 48 hours later the community body closed the contract to purchase 200 million doses, with the option of adding another 100 million.
The president of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assured this Monday that they hope to close the contract with Moderna soon. Von der Leyen has also announced that this Tuesday the contract with the European pharmaceutical company CureVac for the acquisition of 405 million doses will be authorized.
In the case of Moderna, the Commission concluded last August the so-called “exploratory talks”, a step prior to negotiating and signing the purchase contract. The objective of the Commission is to arrange a right of acquisition, once the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine is verified, 80 million doses, with the option of adding another 80 million.
Images of Moderna laboratories.
Brussels plans to finance the purchase option (Advance Purchase Agreement, according to its name in English) with charge of the Urgent Assistance Instrument, activated in April as a result of the pandemic and endowed with 2,700 million euros for the financial year of 2020. The contract will allow to the Member States to acquire the vaccine, as well as to donate them to non-EU countries if necessary or to forward them to other European countries if they consider it appropriate.
As in the rest of the contracts, the vaccine will only be marketed once it is authorized by the European Medicines Agency. And at that time, as Von der Leyen recalled, “it will be distributed to all Member States at the same time, in a proportional amount. [a la población] and under the same conditions ”.
The Commission has already entered into call options with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen and BioNTech-Pfizer. The fifth contract, with CureVac, will be authorized this Tuesday. Brussels thus continues with the Vaccination Strategy that it approved on June 17, the objective of which is to ensure that all European citizens “have access to a high-quality, safe, effective vaccine at an affordable price.” The Commission calculated that vaccination could be carried out within 12 to 18 months, that is, before December 2021 at the latest.
The contracts signed would already allow access to almost 1.5 billion doses in total, although at the moment there are no guarantees that all the vaccines in development will reach the market. The Commission’s strategy has made it possible to negotiate with the muscle provided by having a potential market of 450 million people, much greater than the bargaining power that each of the States would have enjoyed separately.
But this Vaccination Strategy has also drawn criticism for the lack of transparency attributed to the European Commission. The European Parliament expressed its doubts and concerns about the purchasing process last week during a debate with Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. “Europe is giving us bargaining power against pharmaceutical companies in purchasing processes, but that bargaining power cannot detract from the transparency necessary to protect the general interest, obviously, and generate trust in our citizens,” said the Socialist MEP Javi López.
The Commission defends that these are very sensitive commercial transactions, since the investigations compete in parallel to arrive at the vaccine as soon as possible. The Community body insists that confidentiality is unavoidable and refuses to disclose, for example, the cost of each dose.
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