The European Commission’s catastrophic mishandling of the pandemic response must be called into account as deaths continue to pile across Europe.
In the latest of a series of blunders, the Commission has utterly failed in guaranteeing the distribution of vaccines as the EU falls further behind in vaccinating citizens. Left MEPs have repeatedly called on the Commission to make public – uncensored – the contracts it has signed with pharmaceutical companies for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines. The Commission continues to refuse to do so, except for the highly-redacted CureVac contract, evading public accountability.
The EU has put billions of euros in public money for the development of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments. President von der Leyen has also backtracked on her promise that the Covid-19 vaccine would become a public good. Pharmaceutical companies are expected to make record profits on the back of the contracts signed with the EU.
Reacting to the latest situation, MEP Kateřina Konečná (KSČM, Czechia) has slammed AstraZeneca for prioritising greed over the lives of people:
“The words of AstraZeneca’s Executive Director in the last couple of days are absolutely outrageous. He probably forgot that the EU largely paid for the development of the vaccine.
“European citizens and politicians want to hear no excuses for the company’s sudden change of mind, failing to honour the contract it has signed with the EU while having benefited from public subsidies that allowed for the development of the vaccine in the first place.
“Recent developments show the inability of pharmaceutical companies to make timely Covid-19 vaccine deliveries, even to people in Europe who have paid for its development. The Left group in the European Parliament demands that the Commission suspend patent protection for the vaccines and make patents available to everyone in the world for free as a public good.”
Meanwhile, MEP Marc Botenga (PTB, Belgium) called for the Commission to break up the vaccines monopoly:
“Pfizer and AstraZeneca are toying with us and the European Commission seems powerless. That says a lot about how these vaccine contracts were negotiated.
“We completely de-risked vaccine development for the companies. The EU and governments took the financial and investment risks. Yet, there is a risk that these companies decide to sell the vaccine to the highest-bidder first?
“We face the prospect of a third Covid-19 wave. We need more vaccines quickly. Intellectual property rights cannot stand in the way of this.
“Let’s break the monopoly of these companies and allow more companies to produce it. We need to multiply vaccine production sites. Governments can use compulsory licensing to allow rapid increases in production.
“The European Union can support proposals to pool vaccine technology at the World Health and World Trade Organization. We, in the European Parliament, will increase the pressure on them. But I also really hope the European Citizens’ Initiative Right to Cure gets a lot of signatures quickly. Because faced with the power of BigPharma, we need a strong social mobilisation for health,” Botenga concluded.