Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla has pulled out of an appointment to testify before the European Parliament’s Special Committee on COVID-19 Pandemic (“COVI”), at which he was expected to face tough questions on how secretive vaccine deals were struck.
The decision follows an audit report into the EU’s vaccine procurement strategy published earlier in the month that raised new questions about contact between Bourla and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that preceded a multibillion-euro vaccine contract.
The report, by the European Court of Auditors, found that von der Leyen had been directly involved in preliminary negotiations for the EU’s biggest vaccine contract, for up to 1.8 billion doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which was concluded in May 2021. This was a departure from the negotiating procedure followed with other contracts. The EU watchdog also noted that the Commission refused to provide records of the discussions with Pfizer.
After a visit to BioNTech’s headquarters on 20-21 September, COVI’s chair, Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, said in a written statement that she looked forward to discussions “with other CEOs” including “Mr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer.”
Bourla was scheduled to appear before the panel on 10 October. Other pharmaceutical executives have already addressed the committee, including the CEO of Moderna and senior officials from AstraZeneca and Sanofi.