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8th May 2021

EU commission keeps vaccine price secret

  • US paying Pfizer and BioNTech €1.64bn for 100 million doses (Photo: Nathan Forget)

The European Commission says it cannot disclose the price of Covid vaccines due to contractual obligations.

The comments were made on Thursday (12 November) by EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

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"The commission is not legally able to disclose information contained in the contracts," she told MEPs in the European Parliament.

The European Commission has, to date, signed signed three advance contracts and will soon sign a fourth with pharmaceutical firms Pfizer and BioNTech.

Pfizer and BioNTech will alone be producing some 300 million does for the European Union. By comparison, the US is paying the same firm €1.64bn for 100 million doses.

The commission has also signed contracts with vaccine-makers AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV and is in talks with CureVac and Moderna.

The non-disclosure position was reiterated by chief European Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer the same day.

"We cannot tell you what the price of the vaccine is," he told reporters.

But some MEPs, also on Thursday, demanded greater transparency anyway.

Among them was the chair of the European Parliament's environment committee, French liberal MEP Pascal Canfin.

"There is no reason for you to not be able to publish the price of the vaccines," he said.

Canfin had also demanded the commission release information on the profit margins.

"We also want to know where the product is being manufactured," he said.

Swedish socialist MEP Jytte Guteland and German Green MEP Jutta Paulus made similar demands.

"It [transparency] is the only way to create trust," said Paulus.

The complaints followed a concession by Kyriakides to offer limited access to the contracts.

She said the commission was ready to explore making information about the contracts available to some MEPs once negotiations were finalised.

She also revealed that the contracts keep EU liability rules intact, should things go wrong.

"The agreements with the vaccine developers do not change or derogate legislation or rules on liability," she pointed out.

She argued that revealing further details to the public would weaken the commission's negotiating position.

"We need to be extremely careful during these negotiations, so we do not have companies cherry-picking on the best conditions," she said.

The safety and security of the vaccines must first be guaranteed before any release to the wider public, Kyriakides added.

"All member states will have equal access to the available doses at the same time," she said.

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