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Manufacturers prevent donations: Millions of vaccine doses are threatened with destruction


Status: October 29, 2021 2:15 p.m.

Germany has more corona vaccine than necessary. As part of the Covax initiative, the federal government wants to donate vaccines to poorer countries. But the project threatens to fail because of the manufacturers.

The federal government fears that Germany will soon have to destroy large quantities of corona vaccines. She had actually announced that she would donate these vaccines as part of the Covax initiative – surplus vaccines that can no longer be vaccinated in this country, but are urgently needed elsewhere. By the end of the year Germany had promised 100 million vaccine doses – but so far only 19 million doses have actually been donated – vaccines from the manufacturer Astra Zeneca. The reason: The manufacturers of other vaccines apparently impose conditions that make it impossible to pass the vaccines on to poorer countries quickly.

Federal government criticizes vaccine manufacturers

This emerges from a letter from State Secretary Thomas Steffen from the Federal Ministry of Health to the EU Commission, the ARD policy magazine Contrasts is present. In the letter of October 18, Steffen criticizes the behavior of the vaccine manufacturers, which is not only affecting Germany: “We will soon be faced with a situation in which some countries have to destroy large amounts of vaccine that is urgently needed elsewhere.”

Manufacturers take advantage of clauses in contracts

The contracts that the EU Commission concluded with vaccine manufacturers last year give companies a de-facto veto right in the distribution of vaccines to third countries. The manufacturers have to agree to the relevant sales contracts.

Some companies apparently exploit this construction unrestrainedly: Manufacturers would “dictate minimum prices” or demand “excessive compensation payments” from the recipients, criticizes State Secretary Steffen. It is also “unacceptable” that attempts are being made to ban the distribution of vaccines by international organizations. In African recipient countries, international organizations such as “Doctors Without Borders” are involved in the vaccination campaign.

Commercial interests prevent vaccine donations

Such minimum prices or compensation payments would have to be paid in addition to the price that the EU countries have contractually agreed for the vaccinations. For a vaccination dose from the manufacturer Moderna, for example, the EU allegedly pays around 19 euros. According to industry insiders, the background for the additional financial claims are commercial interests: Any dose that is donated free of charge from Germany to Africa, for example, can no longer be sold there, not even at a lower price.

The lucrative sales market for booster vaccinations in Europe would also shrink, at least from the point of view of the US company Moderna: the fewer Germans received their first and second vaccinations with the Moderna vaccine, the smaller the market for booster vaccinations in wealthy Germany. According to the approval, mRNA vaccines have so far been “boosted” with the same vaccine.

Moderna does not yet consent to disclosure

According to research by Contrasts The US company Moderna in particular is currently facing a cross-section: While the framework agreements between Covax and BioNTech / Pfizer and between Covax and Johnson & Johnson have now been signed, according to the Federal Ministry of Health, the dispensing agreement with Moderna is still being negotiated.

It is unclear what sums are required for these compensation payments. State Secretary Steffen only speaks of “excessive” demands in his letter. The amount of the required “minimum prices” is also not public. A press release from the US manufacturer Moderna on October 12th may provide an indication of the magnitude: It says that the Covax initiative paid an average of less than ten dollars (8.58 per dose) and that the third vaccination for about five dollars (4.29 euros) will be offered.

Millions of cans superfluous

The Federal Ministry of Health wants to pass on 50 million doses of so-called vector vaccines from Astra Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson as well as 50 million doses of mRNA vaccines from the manufacturers Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna. According to the letter from State Secretary Steffen, ten million Biontech / Pfizer vaccine doses are to be dispensed in November.

In addition, the Federal Ministry of Health would like to hand over around 40 million vaccine doses from the manufacturer Moderna, because according to the delivery forecast of the ministry, Germany should receive up to 47 million vaccine doses from Moderna in the fourth quarter. As a precaution, the delivery was contractually agreed in 2020. But these cans are definitely no longer needed in this country.

No information from the manufacturers

Contrasts asked Moderna for an opinion. However, the US company did not answer specific questions. Moderna merely stated that the company could “in principle not comment on possible or actual ongoing discussions with authorities and government agencies”. Johnson & Johnson didn’t respond to one ContrastsInquiry. BioNTech did not answer the question of whether the companies Biontech / Pfizer also demanded compensation payments and, if so, in what amount such payments were granted. Instead, the Mainz-based company refers to the Federal Ministry of Health.

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