Germany 'may have breached' vaccine rules

2021-01-12 12:04:58

Health professional Tatjana Lang prepares syringes with doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Bavarian Red Cross vaccination center, in Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm, Germany January 10, 2021. [Photo/Agencies] Independent deal goes against the mass purchase strategy of the European Union The European Commission has refused to be drawn on reports that Germany may have breached a blocwide vaccine purchasing strategy agreement by separately ordering an extra 30 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in September. The European Union is coordinating the vaccine buying strategy for the bloc's 27 member states, and on Friday it secured an extra 300 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Germany's share of the EU order amounts to 56 million doses and so far, 1.3 million doses have been delivered, and a further 2.68 million are expected to have followed by the end of the month. Following the recent EU approval of the Moderna vaccine, member states expect to start rolling that out too. But according to a report by Politico, Germany would receive 30 million more doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine outside the EU's joint vaccination program. Vaccination against COVID-19 started on Dec 27 across the EU, and supplies are currently being shipped to all member states at the same time and under the same conditions. But German politicians and media have called the EU's deal a "vaccination disaster", claiming it has not secured enough doses, Politico reported. It was German scientists who developed the first effective COVID-19 vaccine. Hanno Kautz, spokesperson for the German health ministry, confirmed that Germany "will receive around 60 million vaccine doses from BioNTech from EU contracts, and 30 million from bilateral contracts or agreements... in total, 90 million this year. This is something we have done independently of the EU treaties". This raised the question of whether Germany had violated the EU's vaccination strategy banning countries from conducting parallel negotiations. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed on Friday that member states had agreed that countries cannot sign separate deals. Von der Leyen has always billed the vaccination strategy as a beacon of EU solidarity. She said: "It's legally binding. We have all agreed, legally binding, that there will be no parallel negotiations, no parallel contracts … We're all working together." However, earlier last week, a Commission official said that Germany's deal with BioNTech/Pfizer "did not violate the terms" of the strategy "in spirit" as the country's doses "would come after orders from the Commission had been filled". Politico noted that Kautz backed this up on Friday when he said the deal is "compatible with the EU agreements". He added: "No other EU member will receive vaccines from BioNTech, for example, at a later date... just because Germany has a guarantee for additional vaccines." Critics from Germany's scientific community have expressed concern that the nation has "put European interests above its own by insisting on a joint EU procurement process", according to BBC News. The BBC report noted that Germany's health minister, Jens Spahn, has "blamed the shortage of doses on the inability of the manufacturers of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to meet global demand". A tougher lockdown came into force across all of Germany's 16 federal states on Monday. Euronews reported that more than 80 percent of the beds in the country's intensive care units are now occupied.