Germany has come in for criticism over a bilateral vaccine deal with Pfizer/Biontech to secure an extra 30 million doses of its vaccine at a time when talks between Brussels and the pharma firms were still ongoing.
Berlin ordered the extra doses of the vaccine back in September at a time when it was trumpeting the virtues of a common EU purchasing strategy during its role as rotating president of the European Union.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn confirmed last week that he had purchased an extra 30 million doses of the vaccine in a separate bilateral agreement with the company.
The terms of the EU’s vaccine strategy, published in June, state that the 27 member states agree “not to launch their own procedures for advance purchase of that vaccine with the same manufacturers.”
The pact was supposed to be an act of solidarity towards smaller members with weaker purchasing power.
The European Commission on Friday avoided being drawn on whether Germany had breached the terms of the agreement, with a spokesman asking reporters to address the question to German authorities.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said though that the member states had agreed that “there will be no parallel negotiations or parallel contracts.”
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A report in Politico suggests that Germany purchased the additional doses of the comparatively expensive Pfizer/Biontech vaccine after failing to convince other EU states back in September of the need to buy a further 100 million doses.
Biontech is based in the German city of Mainz and received €375 million in funding from the German government in September to help accelerate its research into a corona vaccine.
The EU eventually signed a deal to purchase 200 million doses of the vaccine in November. On Friday it announced plans to extend its purchases of the vaccine to a total of 600 million doses.
Mr Spahn has come under intense pressure from both the media and the opposition inside Germany over his ministry’s vaccine purchase scheme.
The Social Democrats (SPD), who are junior partner’s to the Christian Democrats (CDU) in government, accused Mr Spahn (CDU) of being responsible for “chaos” due to his alleged failure to purchase adequate doses of the Pfizer vaccine for the country’s 83 million residents.
SPD Finance Minister Olaf Scholz last week demanded answers from Mr Spahn on 24 separate points including one asking “why doses which were not bought up by the EU were not instead ordered for Germany.”
Mr Scholz is the SPD’s pick to run for Chancellor in September’s federal election. The CDU responded furiously to the SPD’s attack, accusing their coalition partner of switching into campaigning mode during a time of national crisis.
“The SPD have strayed from the path of rationality,” CDU leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said. “This is counterproductive and only sows more doubt during our struggle with the pandemic.”