Commission must provide transparency on talks with vaccine manufacturers

European Parliament Vice-President Nicola Beer says the executive must give MEPs “precise answers” to avoid damage to the reputation of the EU and its institutions.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

11 Jan 2021

Beer, a German Renew Europe member, told this site that if the Commission “fails to create clear and transparent conditions, Parliament must set up an investigative committee.”

Her call comes with the EU’s lead negotiator on COVID-19 vaccines contracts, Sandra Gallina, due to update MEPs on the latest developments concerning COVID-19 vaccines on Tuesday.

MEPs from the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety will quiz her on issues such as the EU’s procedure to approve the vaccines, what stage of the review process various vaccines have reached as well as the quantities bought by the EU.

Beer, speaking to The Parliament Magazine, said, “It must be clear to the Commission that we expect immediate transparency with regard to the negotiations with the vaccine manufacturers.”

One way of doing this, she said, would be “in the form of precise answers at a special meeting of the Health Committee.”

She added, “Since September 2020, we Liberals have monitored very closely the vaccine policy of the European Commission and have submitted several written inquiries regarding this.”

“Since September 2020, we Liberals have monitored very closely the vaccine policy of the European Commission and have submitted several written inquiries regarding this. The mere need for such inquiries shows the lack of political will to share information with the European Parliament”

Nicola Beer, Renew Europe

The MEP went on, “The mere need for such inquiries shows the lack of political will to share information with the European Parliament. It cannot be that the Parliament, which is responsible for overseeing the Commission, does not learn anything about what is going on in the steering committee.”

“In order to increase the political pressure, in addition to our written inquiries, we also put the vaccine strategy on the agenda of the first plenary session of the year this week. We will be again pushing the Commission to explain its vaccine procurement measures. We cannot afford to lose more time - every day without sufficient vaccines costs lives.”

“If the Commission fails to create clear and transparent conditions, the Parliament must set up as a next step a committee of inquiry.”

Elsewhere, Pascal Canfin, chair of Parliament’s Environment Committee, has invited the Commission to explain the management of the vaccination campaign in committee on Tuesday.

On January 6, the European Medicines Agency approved the use of Moderna’s Coronavirus vaccine - the second vaccine in the EU’s armoury - and the Commission said on January 8 that it had secured 200m more doses of the Pfizer jab but the EU has still been criticised for an alleged slow vaccine rollout.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen addressed criticism of the Commission for, among other things, not purchasing more vaccines.

“Since September 2020, we Liberals have monitored very closely the vaccine policy of the European Commission and have submitted several written inquiries regarding this” Nicola Beer, Renew Europe

She told reporters, “Whatever comes on the market has to go through the authorities and the EMA, but there is full transparency and all data is always submitted. All purchasing decisions are taken in collaboration with Member States.”

“It is Member States who have the responsibility to organise vaccine campaigns according to the specific characteristics of their country. We are here to see what works best and if lessons can be learned.”

“When we launched these talks there were significant uncertainties about the technology proposed by these companies. We do this together.”

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