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Vaccine contracts must remain confidential, Commission says

Commission rebuffs transparency concerns from MEPs

Contracts the EU has signed with manufacturers of prospective Covid-19 vaccines must remain confidential, the European Commission has said, after being challenged by MEPs to reveal their terms.

“Contracts are protected for confidentiality reasons, which is warranted by the highly competitive nature of this global market,” the Commission said on 24 September.

“This is in order to protect sensitive negotiations as well as business related information, such as financial information and development and production plans.”

The statements came after MEPs complained in a European Parliament hearing on 22 September about a lack of transparency around the contracts the Commission has signed. It has signed advance purchase agreements with AstraZeneca and Sanofi-GSK, and has had talks with Johnson & Johnson, CureVac, Moderna and BioNTech.

“We have very little information on the content of the contracts that have been signed by the European Commission and some laboratories”, said the chair of the environment and food safety committee, MEP Pascal Canfin.

One area of interest is indemnity clauses that protect vaccine makers against loss or other risks due to the unusually short timespan for Covid-19 vaccine development. The Commission said such protections would apply “only under specific conditions” set out in the contracts.

Representatives from the pharmaceutical companies Sanofi and Curevac sought to reassure MEPs during the session. Afterwards, Sue Middleton, the president of the trade body Vaccines Europe, said: “We appreciate everyone’s desire for up-to-date information on the research, development, manufacture and availability of Covid-19 vaccines and thank the [Parliament] committees for the opportunity to update members and the wider community on progress.”