Friday, 5 Mar 2021

EU backlash as MEPs given just 50 minutes to analyse secretive vaccine text – ‘A joke!’

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On January 12, some MEPs were allowed to review the deal signed by the Commission and German company CureVac, which carried an initial purchase of 225 million doses. Belgian MEP Marc Botenga hit out at the European Commission over the lack of time needed to scrutinise the huge text. The MEP also warned the EU Commission had “privatised transparency” on how to assess contracts.

He told Italian publication AGI: “That time does not allow us to grasp the clauses and exceptions.”

This process is used by the EU Commission for other confidential contracts and requires MEPs to leave all phones out of the room while they view the text privately.

Mr Botenga added: “I have knowledge of legal matters, so I can read the text, but if you don’t, you should be able to go in with an expert or a lawyer to read the contract.

“I think that what is not normal is that the Commission and the company hide information from us that are not trade secrets, they should not have crossed out so many parts, it is not justified.

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“They have refused to teach us what the public has seen in the United States.

“On the one hand it is exciting, because you are going to see the document, but on the other hand it is a joke.

“Its usefulness is totally limited because of all the crossed out parts.”

The EU’s vaccination programme has come under intense scrutiny after the UK, US and Israel pushed ahead before the bloc.

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Weeks after the UK, the EU approved the Pfizer/BioNTech drug on December 21 and began the roll out five days later.

This delay has put the bloc far behind the UK which according to the latest figures, has vaccinated 3.8 million people as of January 16.

According to figures by Our World in Data, the UK has vaccinated 6.3 people per 100,000 as of January 16, in contrast, Italy stood at 1.91 as of January 18.

In a further blow to the EU’s vaccine roll-out, Pfizer has been forced to delay the delivery of its drug.

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Due to this, health ministers from six member states have questioned why the delivery will be delayed.

This means vaccination programmes will now be delayed despite the need for the drug.

According to a letter from six ministers, seen by Politico, the officials expressed their concern over the credibility of the process.

They said: “Not only does the holdup impact the planned vaccination schedules, but it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process.”

The ministers from Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Denmark and Sweden have called for answers from the company.

EU Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen had held a call with the CEO of Pfizer in order to discuss the process.

She said: “He explained that there is a production delay in the next weeks but he reassured me that all guaranteed doses of the first quarter will be delivered in the first quarter.

“He is personally on the case to reduce the delay period and making sure they will catch up as soon as possible.”

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