EPPO probes into acquisition of COVID-19 vaccines across EU

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) confirms that it has an ongoing investigation into the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines in the European Union, according to a press release from the institution. This exceptional confirmation comes as a result of extremely high public interest. At this stage, no other details will be made public, the statement of the European Prosecutor’s Office also states.

“This exceptional confirmation comes in light of the extremely high public interest. No other details will be made public at this stage,” the institution’s statement reads.

The European Commission has so far concluded contracts for up to 4.2 billion doses of vaccines against COVID-19, according to data on the Commission’s website. By September 7, 2022, 1.7 billion doses have been delivered. More than half of the 4.2 billion doses bought or reserved by the EU are supplied by the American-German joint venture Pfizer-BioNTech.

Number of doses for which contracts were signed:

  • BioNTech and Pfizer – 2.4 billion doses
  • Moderna – 460 million doses
  • AstraZeneca – 400 million doses
  • Johnson & Johnson – 400 million doses
  • Novavax – 200 million doses
  • Valneva – 1.2 million doses
  • Sanofi-GSK – 300 milioane doze
  • HIPRA Human Health – 250 million doses

Key provisions of the contracts, especially prices, are confidential, an aspect that has been criticized by members of the European Parliament and NGOs.

Following an article published by the New York Times in April 2021 in which it was written that the head of the Commission had exchanged text messages with Albert Bourla in the context of negotiations regarding a contract for the purchase of vaccines, a journalist asked the Commission for access to those messages and other documents related to these discussions.

The EU executive, which was mandated to negotiate the purchase of vaccines on behalf of the member states, agreed to send him three documents (an email, a letter and a press release), but none of the SMS.

The EC argued that it did not keep the SMS, because there is no such obligation, as they are not subject to the transparency rules dating from 2001 of the European institutions.

Early this year, the European ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, reproached the European Commission for refusing to give information to the press about the exchange of text messages between the chief executive of the EU, Ursula von der Leyen, and the chief executive of the Pfizer company, Albert Bourla, on the subject of the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.

COVID-19dosesEPPOEUEuropean Public Prosecutor's OfficeinvestigationPfizer/BioNTechpurchasevaccines
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