September 25, 2023

The Queens County Citizen

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Procurement of Anti-Covid Vaccines: An Open Inquiry

Procurement of Anti-Covid Vaccines: An Open Inquiry

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office announced on Friday that it had opened an investigation into the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines in the European Union without further details.

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“The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (or EPPO) confirms that it has an ongoing investigation into the purchase of anti-Covid vaccines in the EU,” he said in a press release circulated on social networks.

“This extraordinary determination is due to very high public interest (on the issue). No other details will be made public at this stage,” the EPPO added.

Faced with the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic that reached Europe in early 2020, the European Commission decided to continue joint procurement of vaccines on behalf of 27 member states.

Most doses have been purchased or reserved for the American-German duo Pfizer/BioNTech, while five other manufacturers have had their vaccines approved by the European regulator (Moderna, AstraZeneca, Janssen, Novavax and Valneva).

NGOs and MEPs have criticized that key aspects of the contracts are confidential.

An exchange of text messages between European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bauerla, revealed by the New York Times, sparked controversy and prompted the EU Ombudsman to intervene.

The ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, said this summer that text messages exchanged by EU institutions should be accessible to the public after the Commission refused services to a journalist who sought to know the content. Conditions similar to other European working documents.

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Asked by AFP, a commission spokesman argued that Ms van der Leyen exchanged text messages with Pfizer’s CEO “just like she exchanges with CEOs of other companies” to persuade them to supply the EU under the rules. ‘.

But the head of the European executive “does not negotiate deals” with pharmaceutical companies, the spokesman added.

He explained that the negotiations were overseen by a steering committee involving “representatives of the Commission and all Member States” on behalf of the EU. According to him, the latter “is likely to withdraw from the agreement”.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office, officially established in 2021, is an independent EU agency responsible for combating fraud on EU funds and any other crime affecting its financial interests (corruption, money laundering, cross-border VAT fraud).

This apex body is responsible for investigating, but also prosecuting and bringing to justice the perpetrators of such crimes, an unprecedented power that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) lacks.