Tuesday

26th Jan 2021

Coronavirus

Commission silent as Germany buys own vaccines

  • Currently, BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only jabs authorised in the EU (Photo: Nathan Forget)

The European Commission has refused to comment on whether Germany has breached EU agreements by securing additional vaccine doses for its own citizens under a bilateral agreement.

German health minister Jens Spahn said earlier this week that his country had signed a memorandum of understanding with BioNTech last September for 30 million additional vaccine doses - a decision which seems to put at risk the principle of solidarity between European countries.

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In his statement, he revealed that the German deal was sealed two months before the EU commission finalised the EU-wide contracts with the Pfizer and BioNTech in November, in what appears to be also in a breach of EU agreements which prohibit member states from negotiating separate deals.

"The only framework we are negotiating in is as 27. We do this together, and no member state on this legal-binding basis is allowed to negotiate in parallel or to have a contract in parallel," the president of the EU executive, Germany's Ursula von der Leyen, told reporters on Friday (8 January).

However, commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer refused to clarify whether the German bilateral deal was legitimate under the EU rules.

"I find somehow surprising that in a context of a health crisis, [while] the European Commission is focusing on delivering the doses of vaccines which are necessary for the European population, the questioning is about whether at a very initial stage of the negotiation procedures 't's were crossed and i's were dotted'," Mamer said on Friday, without providing further details.

The commission spokesman previously said, on Wednesday, that he had no information on Germany's deal, arguing that those 30 million vaccine doses Berlin negotiated would be probably part of the doses the EU has already secured with Pfizer and BioNTech.

Despite negotiating together under an EU umbrella, it is up to member states to buy the vaccine doses from the companies and agree on the exact deliveries.

The EU executive secured on Friday an additional 200 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, with the option of an extra 100 million - in a bid to counter growing criticism from member states about the slow roll-out of vaccines.

In total, there are now 600 million doses of this vaccine available to member states. There are approximately 450 million EU citizens.

Pfizer previously said it could only produce up to 1.3 billion doses this year, Reuters reported.

The commission, on behalf of member states, has sealed deals with Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, BioNTech/Pfizer and CureVac for up to 2.3 billion vaccine doses.

Currently, BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are the only jabs authorised in the EU.

Meanwhile, some EU countries, such as France and Belgium, have come under fire for their slow vaccine rollout programmes.

Von der Leyen also said the "beginning is always difficult," urging member states to "raise the numbers of vaccinations rapidly".

EU leaders will discuss the vaccine roll-out in a videoconference scheduled later this month (21 January).

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