Check Against Delivery
Dear President, Honourable Members,
We are witnessing with great concern an increasingly rapid rise of infection rates and deaths all across the EU.
Vaccination is not a magic solution that will allow us to go back to our lives overnight. For COVID-19, there is no silver bullet, it is important that we are frank about this.
But vaccinations, once we have a vaccine which is proven safe and effective, will play a crucial role: in saving lives, in containing the pandemic, in protecting health care systems, in helping to restore our economy.
It will provide our citizens with a sense of hope and predictability in their lives. Predictability is something that we often take for granted but what we have been living with over the past ten months is the uncertainty of now knowing what the next day will hold.
Just on Monday, we saw financial markets reacting with glee to the encouraging announcements from one of the vaccine developers. But I also saw something else, I saw the element of hope that European citizens felt with this news.
We are therefore doing everything we can to ensure that vaccines are produced as quickly and as safely as possible.
To maximise our chances of success, we are working intensively to have an as diverse common EU portfolio of vaccines against COVID-19 as possible, developed using different technologies.
The negotiations with companies have been intensive and inclusive, carried out with and for Member States.
To date, we have signed three contracts and are about to sign the fourth one with Pfizer and BioNtech. And our negotiations are advanced with an additional two companies and exploratory talks are ongoing with a number of other producers.
Let me reassure you that once a vaccine becomes available, all Member States will have equal access to the available doses, and at the same time, according to the agreements we have concluded.
I recognise fully the importance of transparency in this process.
Due to the highly competitive nature of this global market, the Commission is legally not able to disclose the information contained in the contracts.
Non-disclosure clauses are a standard feature of these agreements that vaccine developers have also concluded with several other countries. This is necessary to protect sensitive negotiations and business related information, such as financial information and development and production plans.
The companies require that such sensitive business information remains confidential between the signatories of the contract. The Commission therefore cannot decide to unilaterally disclose them without the consent of all involved parties.
There are also rules that protect the tendering process, and we fully abide by them, not only for reasons linked to contractors’ commercial interests, but also because disclosing sensitive business information would weaken the position of the Commission in the negotiations.
Disclosing contractual provisions during ongoing negotiations would lead to companies cherry picking on the best conditions of each contract.
Let me conclude by addressing some of the concerns that I have heard over the past weeks.
- Safety is a fundamental requirement for any vaccine to be deployed in the EU. The safety of citizens is our top priority, and this is non-negotiable for us. The European Medicines Agency is doing everything to ensure the safety dimension is covered.
- The agreements with the vaccine developers do not change or derogate from the EU legislation and rules on liability.
- We are acting in full compliance with all applicable rules regarding financial management, and we are confident that the process will stand any future review or audit.
I can assure that over the last few months, we have been working tirelessly on this. We must continue to do so, as it is possibly our only way out of the pandemic, but not at the cost of safety, which is the main concern of our citizens.