BELGIUM — Pfizer representatives will maintain their access to the European Parliament, despite facing possible expulsion amidst the ongoing controversy surrounding the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

According to EurActiv, the decision was made by the leaders of the Parliament’s political groups, during the Conference of Presidents’ meeting.

The vote came after the Green group suggested excluding Pfizer from the Parliament following the drugmaker’s failure to provide adequate explanations about its vaccine purchase contracts during the pandemic, as requested by the COVI committee in January.

However, the CoP chose to invite European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to address the matter involving the scandalous text messages exchanged with Pfizer’s CEO.

The text messages are suspected to be part of a direct negotiation between the two, which led to a contract for 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will not be appearing before the COVI committee to address the ongoing “Pfizergate” scandal.

Instead, the Conference of Presidents (CoP) has taken the decision to invite her to speak about the text messages she exchanged with Pfizer’s CEO. The COVI committee had initially requested her presence.

The COVI committee Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sought to question the Commission boss on her personal role in negotiating the EU’s largest vaccine deal.

Michèle Rivasi expressed concern over the CoP’s decision, calling it a reflection of the powerful inner circle and a departure from the transparency and accountability the Parliament had been advocating for.

The “Pfizergate” scandal involves allegations of a direct negotiation between von der Leyen and Pfizer’s CEO, which led to a contract for 1.8 billion COVID vaccine doses.

The New York Times was the first to report on the text message affair in April 2021 and has now taken legal action against the European Commission for failing to disclose the text messages.

The possible involvement of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has added to the controversy.

In July 2022, the European Ombudsman criticized the Commission’s lack of effort in finding the text messages, describing it as a serious concern and an indication of an institution that is not transparent on key issues of public interest.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine deal is worth an estimated €35 billion (US$ 37.4 billion) for 900 million doses, with the option to purchase 900 million more.

However, millions of doses are now sitting unused in EU warehouses.

Meanwhile, in the midst of parallel litigation ongoing in the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, the United Kingdom’s High Court has been selected as the venue for one of the initial legal battles between Pfizer and Moderna regarding COVID-19 vaccine patents, Fiercepharma reports.

The lawsuits involve allegations of patent infringement related to lipid nanoparticle delivery, spike protein encoding, and other technologies, with Moderna seeking compensation and damages from Pfizer and BioNTech for sales of their mRNA shot Comirnaty, while Pfizer and BioNTech are challenging the validity of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine patents.

The trial is set to take place in London in April 2024 and is expected to involve expert testimony from biochemists, immunologists, virologists, and vaccine delivery experts to resolve the dispute.

Similar lawsuits have also been filed by both companies in the United States, with Moderna stating it would not seek to remove Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine from the market but instead expected its mRNA rivals to respect its intellectual property rights and consider a commercially reasonable license.

Both companies are also engaged in separate legal disputes over their mRNA vaccine technology, with Pfizer playing defense in German and U.S. patent litigation with Germany’s CureVac, and Moderna facing a lawsuit from Arbutus Biopharma and Genevant Sciences for alleged infringement of six patents.

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