The Workers Party in Belgium (PTB/PVDA) has slammed the profit motive-driven maneuvers of multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer in the sale of COVID-19 vaccines to Belgium. On January 22, in the federal parliament, PTB/PVDA MP Sofie Merckx accused the Belgian federal government of submitting to Big Pharma’s quest for profit from the COVID-19 vaccine sales to the country. The accusation comes after it was discovered during vaccinations that six vaccine doses could be drawn per bottle supplied by Pfizer instead of five, as initially planned. After this development, Pfizer decided to deliver fewer vials of COVID-19 vaccines than expected.
Through the delay in the delivery of the promised quantity of vaccines, Pfizer is aiming for more profits from the government, Merckx claimed. Since Pfizer’s contract is based on the number of doses and not on the number of vials, the company could falter on the expected delivery.
Merckx stated, “on three occasions, Pfizer put the brakes on the vaccination drive, announcing in the press that the company could not guarantee future deliveries. And now the pharmaceutical giant has decided to provide fewer vials…because our country is drawing six doses from one vial instead of the planned five. This attitude of Pfizer is simply unacceptable.” She demanded that Pfizer provide Belgium with the bottles initially planned instead of profiting from the crisis at the expense of public health.
Following negotiations by the European Commission on the procurement procedures for COVID-19 vaccines on behalf of member states, an agreement was reached on November 11 last year, as per which, five million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were ordered for Belgium. The entire COVID-19 vaccination program in Belgium has been co-financed by the federal authority (80%) and federated entities (20%). According to the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products (FAMHP), 281,775 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had been delivered to Belgian hospitals by January 17.
Merckx also criticized the government’s passive attitude, saying, “our government blindly trusts Big Pharma and is thus the plaything of a handful of multinationals, who want to make the most of this pandemic.”
Meanwhile, following continuous demands from the PTB/PVDA and other progressive sections, the European Commission has published the contract concluded with the pharmaceutical company CureVac for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. Marc Botenga, Member of European Parliament (MEP) from the PTB/PVDA, said that the partial publication of this contract is a victory for all those who have been mobilizing for months. “Unfortunately the European Commission continues to hide key passages of the contract, such as prices. The vaccine is paid for with public money. We have the right to know the prices. Given the uncertainties over deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine, total transparency is required,” he added.