Vaccine prices: MEPs contest the opacity of the European Commission

MEPs are asking for more transparency on the price of vaccines.

Here, the preparation of a dose of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine.

© Craig F. Walker, REUTERS

Text by: Anastasia Becchio

5 mins

It is a tweet which, undoubtedly in spite of himself, has lifted a corner of the veil on the opacity which reigns in the sector.

Last week, Belgian Secretary of State for the Budget Eva De Bleeker disclosed on Twitter the prices of anti-Covid vaccines ordered by the European Commission.

She had to withdraw her message quickly, after having drawn the wrath of Brussels for violating the confidentiality clause.


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Negotiated prices, additional clauses, responsibilities in the event of side effects… All this remains in principle unknown to the public, because the conditions and prices for the purchase of vaccines by the Commission are covered by the seal of secrecy.

The contracts concluded with the laboratories contain a confidentiality clause.



the moment we do not know anything

, gets carried away MEP Michèle Rivasi.

Let's put the cards on the table.

How much has Europe given them public money?

How much exactly does a vaccine cost them?

Two euros, fifteen euro cents?

Why is Moderna's one so expensive?



BioNTech's price

at twelve euros and Purevax's at ten? 

The ecologist does not take offense.

"It has to be a tweet from a Secretary of State for the Budget who finally gives us the price of vaccines, but who are we kidding ?!"


► See also: Covid-19: the price of vaccines in Europe unveiled in error by a Belgian minister

The Commission defends itself by citing the highly competitive nature of the market: disclosing commercial information would harm the tendering process and adversely affect prices.

The argument does not hold, replies Belgian MEP Marc Botenga, who explains that the very first contract concluded by the Commission with Astra Zeneca was by far the cheapest.

Why then would the European Union not use the price of the lowest vaccine to lower the price of the most expensive?" He 


All the more so as the pressure of public opinion in favor of accessible medicines would also make it possible to strengthen Brussels' position in the negotiations.


Pressure without too many results    

But pressure from MEPs to achieve more transparency has so far only produced meager results.

Some elected officials should be able to consult extracts from the contracts, Michèle Rivasi is at the origin of this request to the European Commission, and as a member of the Committee on Budgetary Control she should have access to these documents.

But once the agreements have been concluded, and with certain reservations. 


The Commission told us that we would have a say as soon as the contracts were signed,

” she says.

But in a confined room… so it won't be for everyone, NGOs, independent experts, politicians, there will be screening.

Looks like we're in a private market.

However, this is a public market.

All research money is public money.

By what right, now, the laboratories prevent us from having access to these contracts with the complicity of the Commission?

The subject affects our health but it also affects the wallet of all European citizens



Members still do not have access to these documents

At the time of

vaccination will begin


, members still do not have access to them, despite the announcements of the Commission.

They also do not have access to the composition of the members of the team responsible for negotiating these contracts.

Marc Botenga, was worried, and asked for explanations.


The commission responded that it feared pressure on its negotiators.

But what pressures is she talking about: the problem cannot come from the pharmaceutical industry since it is with it that the negotiators negotiate - the labs are therefore aware of the content of the exchanges.

So the only people who could still exert pressure - or control - would be the population, associations or NGOs dealing with public health.


But here again, opacity has limits: at the end of August, a Belgian daily revealed the name of one of the negotiators, Richard Bergström, who is none other than the former boss of the main lobby of the pharmaceutical industry.

Faced with criticism, the European Health Commissioner confined herself to indicating that he had, like all the others, signed a declaration of absence of conflict of interest.


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  • European Union

  • Coronavirus

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