Pfizer retains access to EU Parliament despite vaccine purchase controversy

Representatives of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer will be allowed continued access to the European Parliament, the leaders of the Parliament’s political groups decided on Thursday (16 February), after the company faced the risk of expulsion amid the ongoing controversy over the purchase of COVID vaccines.

Read the original French article here.

The Conference of Presidents of the Parliament’s political groups, which usually convenes during plenary sessions in Strasbourg, voted against excluding the US giant Pfizer from the European Parliament premises.

“This vote is a disgrace,” Green MEP Michèle Rivasi said in a press release following Thursday’s vote.

The vote follows the Green’s proposal in the Parliament’s COVI committee on 11 January to bar Pfizer from entering the Parliament, after the company failed to cooperate in providing explanations on vaccine purchase contracts during the COVID pandemic.

“After Pfizer’s CEO, [Albert] Bourla, refused twice to testify in the European Parliament, the COVID Special Committee decided to impose a sanction on the pharmaceutical company by barring it from our premises,” Rivasi said.

Bourla’s refusal to meet with COVI MEPs twice in a row, last October and December, irritated all committee members.

The CoP thus considered several options, including temporarily excluding the pharmaceutical company, applying the sanction only to Pfizer’s CEO or to all its representatives, or simply continuing to allow the company access to the European Parliament.

Ultimately, the last option was chosen.

Von der Leyen will not go to COVI committee

The CoP also decided to invite European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to talk about the scandal involving text messages she exchanged with Pfizer’s CEO. It was initially the COVI committee that wanted to invite von der Leyen to speak to them.

“These decisions are extremely serious and reflect the inner circle of the powerful. The European Parliament is taking part in the opacity that we keep denouncing, rather than achieving transparency and ruling on responsibilities”, added Rivasi.

Von der Leyen is due to address the so-called “Pfizergate”, in which she and Pfizer’s CEO are suspected of having directly negotiated a contract for 1.8 billion doses of COVID vaccine by text message.

The first media outlet to reveal the text message affair was the New York Times in April 2021, which decided on Monday (13 February) to sue the European Commission for failing to make the text messages public.

In July 2022, the European Ombudsman severely criticised the Commission and said the lack of willingness to find the texts was a serious concern.

“The handling of this request for access to documents leaves the unfortunate impression of a European institution that is not straightforward on key issues of public interest,” said the Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.


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