Brussels, Belgium: The EU prosecutor’s office on Friday said it had opened an active investigation into the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccines in the European Union but gave no details.
The European Commission has served as the centralised pre-purchaser of coronavirus vaccines for the EU’s 27 members but those countries were then responsible for buying supplies from that centralised stock.
“This exceptional confirmation comes after the extremely high public interest. No further details will be made public at this stage,” the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) tweeted.
It was not clear what the possible target of the investigation was.
Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen is in hot water with the EU Ombudsman’s office for refusing to hand over mobile phone SMS messages she exchanged with the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, as her EU executive was arranging contracts.
After the commission said it did not identify any text messages relating to a formal request on the matter, and considered such messages too short-lived to warrant archiving, the Ombudsman, Emma O’Reilly, in July said “this constituted maladministration”.
The commission secured up to 4.2 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to respond to the initial waves of the coronavirus and future ones.
Most of the doses are of the mRNA type, particularly from the tie-up between German company BioNTech and US giant Pfizer.
So far, 83 percent of the EU’s population is fully vaccinated.
Contacted by AFP for comment on the EPPO investigation, a commission spokesman said any questions should be referred to the EPPO, as it is an independent prosecutor.
The spokesman added: “With regard to the SMS topic, I would like to stress that the president (von der Leyen) did not negotiate the contracts.”
Some 10 eastern EU countries found they had a vaccine oversupply compared to the jabs uptake in their territories.
Some, such as Poland, refused to pay for their allotted supply ordered via the commission, prompting the EU to push for renegotiation of the contracts with the relevant companies.
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At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, the EU also imposed short-lived export controls on supplies of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 viral vector vaccine which ended up finding much lower uptake than the mRNA ones.
© Agence France-Presse