Without the knowledge of the other EU countries, Berlin has agreed with BioNTech-Pfizer on the supply of 30 million vaccines against corona for Germany. Those involved in Brussels call this practice contrary to the agreement that the European Commission should negotiate jointly with vaccine manufacturers in order to avoid a race between member states.

’This is not in the spirit of the European vaccination strategy’, says an EU official. A diplomat expects the German Health Minister Spahn to be asked for clarification by his EU colleagues. other diplomats call it ’fishy‘ that the agreement between Berlin and BioNTech was established during the German EU presidency.

Minister Spahn acknowledges that on 8 September last year he signed a’ preliminary contract ‘ with BioNTech-Pfizer on the supply of 30 million vaccine doses. The vaccine, which is now widely used in Europe, was still in development at that time. On 31 August Berlin made the same deal with a second pharmaceutical company (Curevac) about a future supply of 20 million doses of vaccine. In December, a third provisional contract with IDT Biologika was signed for 5 million doses.

Diplomats in Brussels are surprised at this entrance to Berlin. They claim to have been informed only this week in the corridors about the additional vaccine orders issued by Germany. Last summer, the member states decided that the commission would negotiate exclusively on behalf of the member states with the vaccine manufacturers. In this way, Brussels negotiated nearly 2 billion doses of vaccine from six manufacturers (including BioNTech-Pfizer and Curevac). Vaccines shall be distributed fairly between member states on the basis of their population size.

German officials point out that Berlin previously provided BioNTech-Pfizer with a grant of EUR 375 million, Curevac received 252 million, IDT 114 million. According to these officials, it is ‘logical’ that Berlin then agreed on the delivery of future vaccines from the three German companies.

Berlin emphasises that the agreements with BionTech and Curevac were concluded before the commission concluded a contract with these companies. This involves ‘binding commitments’ in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding between Berlin and the manufacturers. Whether and how it is used remains to be decided by Berlin. On Thursday, Spahn announced that the additional German doses would not be delivered until manufacturers had fulfilled their commitments with the EU.

However, diplomats believe that the German approach sheds light on European strategy. In times of limited quantities of vaccines, they find this painful, even though the EU strategy is not legally binding.

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