Pfizer plays hardball in Covid-19 vaccine negotiations – Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts 2021-02-23 00:01:24 –

PPfizer has been accused of “bullying” the Latin American government during negotiations to obtain the Covid-19 vaccine, which has given some countries sovereign assets such as embassy buildings and military bases. Future litigation, according to a UK-based investigation Investigative Journal..

In one Latin American country, a request from a major pharmaceutical company delayed the achievement of a vaccine contract by three months. For Argentina and Brazil, no domestic transactions with Pfizer have been agreed. Stagnation in vaccinated countries can infect more people with Covid-19 and potentially kill them.

Officials from Argentina and other Latin American countries who cannot be named because they have a non-disclosure agreement with Pfizer, the company’s negotiators said were civil lawsuits filed by citizens suffering serious adverse events after vaccination. He said he demanded more compensation than usual. They also stated that Pfizer argued that the government would bear the potential costs of civil lawsuits resulting from Pfizer’s own negligence, fraud, or malicious acts. In Argentina and Brazil, Pfizer called for sovereign assets to be pledged as collateral for future legal costs.


A government health official who attended negotiations in an unnamed country described Pfizer’s request as “a high level of bullying” and said the government felt “ransom demanded” to access life-saving vaccines. Stated.

Campaign participants have already warned about “vaccine apartheid” Rich Western countries can be inoculated many years before low-income areas. Legal experts are now raising concerns that Pfizer’s demands represent abuse of power.


Lawrence Gostyn, a law professor at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization’s National and World Health Law Cooperation Center, said: “”[This] It’s exactly what they are doing. “

The protection against liability should not be used as “the sword of Damocles hanging above the heads of desperate nations with a desperate population,” he added.

Pfizer, which produced the vaccine in partnership with German biotechnology BioNTech, has consulted with more than 100 countries and international agencies in nine Latin American and Caribbean countries (Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay. The terms of those transactions are unknown.

Pfizer refused to comment on allegations of the demands in the negotiations on the grounds of “in-progress negotiations on confidentiality.”

The company told Bureau in a statement: “Pfizer and BioNTech are committed to working with the government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that people around the world have fair and affordable access to the COVID-19 vaccine.” In addition to the nine Latin American countries with supply contracts, “allocated doses to low- and middle-income countries at non-commercial prices, for which COVAX will provide up to 40 million doses in 2021. COVAX is a global initiative to pool purchasing power and ensure access to vaccines in low-income countries. “We are committed to supporting efforts aimed at providing developing countries with access to the same vaccines as the rest of the world,” said Pfizer.

Most governments provide compensation (exemption of legal liability) to the vaccine manufacturer from which they are purchased. This means that citizens suffering from adverse events after being vaccinated can make a claim to the manufacturer and, if successful, the government will pay compensation. In some countries, you can apply for compensation through a specific structure without going to court.

This is fairly common with vaccines given in a pandemic.In many cases, adverse events are so rare that they do not appear in clinical trials and become apparent only after hundreds of thousands of people have been vaccinated (2009). For example, the H1N1 influenza vaccine was ultimately associated with narcolepsy.). Manufacturers often agree to pay for compensation because they develop vaccines quickly and protect everyone in society.

However, government officials from an unnamed country who spoke to Argentina and the bureau said that Pfizer’s request exceeded that of other vaccine companies, and that member states also requested COVAX to indemnify their manufacturers. Said it was over. This means that you have to hire a professional lawyer and sometimes pass complicated new laws, which is an additional burden for some countries and can exempt the manufacturer from liability. I will.

“Extreme demand”

Pfizer sought additional compensation from the civil proceedings. This means that the company is not liable for rare adverse effects or for its negligence, fraud or malicious intent. This includes those related to corporate practices. For example, Pfizer sent the wrong vaccine or made an error during manufacturing.

“While some degree of liability protection is guaranteed, it is not guaranteed if fraud, gross negligence, mismanagement, or good manufacturing practice is not followed,” Gostyn said. “Companies do not have the right to seek compensation for these matters.”

Mark Eccleston Turner, a lecturer in global health law at Keele University in the United Kingdom, said Pfizer and other manufacturers are government-funded for vaccine research and development and are currently at potential cost to the government. Said pushing back. Low and middle income countries. (Pfizer’s partner BioNTech has been awarded $ 445 million by the German government for vaccine development, and the U.S. government has about 20 doses of 100 million doses in July before the vaccine enters Phase 3 trials. Agreed to pre-order for $ 100 million Pfizer I’m hoping to make Vaccine sales worth $ 15 billion in 2021. )

In Eccleston-Turner’s view, Pfizer “seems to be trying to make as much profit as possible and minimize risk at all stages of this vaccine development and subsequent vaccine deployment. Currently, vaccine development is We have already received a large amount of funding, so the risks to the manufacturers involved are negligible. “

The agency explained how the meeting with Pfizer was promising but quickly became sour, and spoke with officials from two countries who reviewed the report of the Brazilian Ministry of Health.

The Argentine Ministry of Health began negotiations with the company in June, and President Alberto Fernandez held a meeting with the general manager of the Argentine company the following month. At a subsequent meeting, Pfizer sought compensation for future civil proceedings, Cheong Wa Dae officials said. This has never been done before, but the national parliament passed a new law in October to allow it. However, Pfizer was not happy with the wording of the law, according to officials who refused to be identified because the negotiations were confidential. The government believed that Pfizer should be liable for negligence or malicious intent. Pfizer said officials did not agree.

The government has offered to amend existing legislation to clarify that “negligence” means a problem with the distribution and delivery of vaccines. But Pfizer wasn’t happy yet. It called on the government to amend the law through new decree. Fernandez refused.

“Argentina was able to compensate for the negative effects of the vaccine, but not if Pfizer made a mistake,” said an official with detailed knowledge of the negotiations. “For example, what if Pfizer unintentionally interrupts the cold chain of vaccines? [of -70 Celsius during transport and storage] … And do citizens want to sue them? It would be unfair for Argentina to pay for Pfizer’s error. “

Officials said the negotiations quickly became tense and complicated. “Pfizer demanded more and more instead of succumbing to some points.” In addition to the changes required by the new law, Argentina was required to take out international insurance to pay for potential future proceedings against the company (the state will do this in the event of H1N1 from vaccine makers and WHO). Was asked).

In late December, Pfizer made another unexpected request. The government provides sovereign assets (federal bank reserves, embassy buildings, military bases, etc.) as collateral.

“We offered to pay millions of doses in advance, we accepted this international insurance, but the last request is rare: Pfizer’s sovereign assets in Argentina are also part of the legal support I demanded that it be, “said officials. “It was an extreme request that I heard only when it became necessary to negotiate external debt, but again and again, I immediately refused.”

Failure to negotiate means that, unlike neighboring countries, Pfizer’s vaccine will not be available to the Argentine people, leaving Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, AstraZeneca’s vaccine, and the vaccine provided through COVAX. The government is also negotiating to obtain vaccines from Moderna, Sinopharm, and CanSino.

“Pfizer has cheated with Argentina,” said Argentine Health Minister Ginés González Garcia. “That intolerance to us was tremendous.”

“Good cop, bad cop”

The same request was made to the Brazilian Ministry of Public Health, according to a statement from the ministry. Pfizer sought compensation for all civil proceedings and urged the ministry to provide sovereign assets as collateral and to create a guarantee fund with money deposited in foreign bank accounts. In January, the ministry rejected these terms and Description of the clause As “abuse”.

An unnamed Latin American country official explained a story that is unfolding as well. The person said the government began negotiations with Pfizer in July, before the vaccine was approved. Pfizer negotiators were aware that they had a “good cop, bad cop” routine, and that “bad cop” was pressing the government to buy more doses.

“”[At that time] No single drug or vaccine in the world has this type of technology that has been shown to be safe and effective. … You put pressure on this woman: “Buy more, you will kill people, people will die for you,” officials said.

Negotiations failed when the company demanded additional compensation for a civil lawsuit alleging Pfizer’s negligence, fraud, or malicious intent. The government has never given any kind of compensation and did not want to give up liability, but Pfizer said it was indisputable. Negotiations continued and eventually a contract was signed with additional compensation clauses, but with a three-month delay.

Pfizer is clearly on a first-come, first-served basis, with only 2 billion doses available worldwide this year, and authorities are angry with delays that could bring the country back in line.

One of the reasons the government wanted Pfizer’s vaccine was because it said Pfizer could get it quickly. However, in the contract, Pfizer wanted to reserve the right to change the schedule. There was no room for negotiation. “It was to take it or leave it,” officials said.

“Five years after these nondisclosure agreements end, we’ll learn what really happened in these negotiations,” added a source.

Based in the UK Investigative Journal Is an independent non-profit organization. This story was created by the Global Health Desk.

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