Text messages exchanged between the European Union‘s boss and Pfizer’s CEO just before they sealed a lucrative COVID vaccine deal have vanished, a letter released Wednesday revealed, in the latest chapter of what Europeans are calling “delegate.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen acknowledged over a year ago that she had been in regular contact with Pfizer boss Albert Bourla while they worked out a deal for 1.8 billion doses of Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. But after a reporter sought the text messages, the commission, which is the EU’s executive body, said they are gone, according to a letter published by the EU watchdog.
“The Commission can confirm that the search undertaken by the President’s cabinet for relevant text messages corresponding to the request for access to documents has not yielded any results,” European Union Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said in a letter to the agency’s ombudsman, according to Reuters.
The elite demand that YOU have no privacy while themselves refusing all transparency:
“Ursula von der Leyen exchanged TEXTS with PFIZER CHIEF Albert Bourla for a month when they were negotiating a massive vaccine contract”
She can ‘no longer find them’https://t.co/uR21K9gkqR
— Maajid أبو عمّار (@MaajidNawaz) June 29, 2022
The deal was announced with fanfare in May of 2021, but the commission did not reveal the price of the contract. It covered 1.8 billion doses for the 450 million European Union residents from 2021-2023 as well as booster shots. Pfizer made an estimated $15 billion last year off of its vaccine.
Von der Leyen revealed last year that she had exchanged texts with Bourla for a month when they negotiated the deal, believed to be worth billions of dollars. When a journalist sought the texts and was denied, EU ombudsman Emily O’Reilly accused the governing body of “maladministration” and asked the commission to look again for the texts, Reuters reported.
The letter released on Wednesday said the messages are no longer in Von der Leyen’s possession, and argued that text messages are not subject to public scrutiny anyway.
“Due to their short-lived and ephemeral nature, text and instant messages in general do not contain important information relating to policies, activities and decisions of the commission,” the letter stated, per The Guardian.
O’Reilly’s office called the commission’s response “problematic on several points” and said it intends to publish a detailed report on the matter sometime in July.
European Parliament Member Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian Social Democrat and chair of the special committee on Covid-19, told the Guardian the European Commission’s response was unacceptable.
“The complete lack of transparency benefits the industry, not European citizens,” she said.
In addition to concerns about the secrecy of negotiations, some European leaders have sought to renegotiate the deal because many of the doses are going to waste as more residents refuse to get vaccinated, according to Reuters.