State property, embassies and military bases!!! According to a journalistic investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and Ojo Público, the U.S. pharmaceutical company has asked to be relieved of responsibility for possible adverse consequences in the use of the drugs.
Abusive terms from Pfizer
A Publication by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) in collaboration with the Peruvian media Ojo Público reveals that the U.S. multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer imposed abusive conditions on Latin American governments when negotiating multi-million dollar purchases of Covid-19 vaccines. Read here.
Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine
The investigation states that the company was asked, among other things, to deposit state assets of countries as collateral, including public property, such as embassies and military bases, or state bank reserves. This as a form of protection from potential lawsuits over possible undesirable results after the doses were applied. In response, an anonymous source described Pfizer’s stance as “high-level intimidation.”
An extreme demand
The case of Argentina, where the dialogues were then broken off, was one of the most striking. Although it is common for vaccine manufacturers to impose conditions to free themselves from as many legal obligations as possible, the government of Alberto Fernandez said that the US company went over the limit.
“Instead of giving in on some points, Pfizer kept demanding more.”
In June, talks began and Congress passed a special law to indemnify Pfizer in the event of civil suits, at the request of the other party. The Argentine political class also believed that the company should be liable in case of disputes based on negligence or malice, which the private group opposed. “Instead of giving in on some points, Pfizer kept demanding more,” an Argentine official told the aforementioned media outlet.
Among the unexpected demands, the pharmaceutical company asked the country to take out an international insurance policy to cover possible conflicts. And in December came the condition that ultimately derailed the negotiations: they required Argentina to put up its assets as collateral, which could include strategic real estate and central bank funds. “It was an extreme demand that I had only heard when we had to negotiate the foreign debt, but in that case, as in this one, we rejected it immediately,” commented a member of the Peronist government.
The then Minister of Health, Ginés García González, had already publicly expressed: “Pfizer has behaved badly towards Argentina”. In fact, the South American country was used as a site for clinical trials of the vaccine, but today, due to the lack of agreement, the citizenry can not count on this product to fight the pandemic. Read here.
According to the publication, a similar conflict occurred during negotiations between Pfizer and Brazil. The “giant of South America” was told that in addition to its state assets, it would have to deposit money in a foreign bank account to create another guarantee fund. These requirements were defined as “abusive” by the Ministry of Health. Similarly, the Brazilian regulator has already approved the use of these large-scale injections, although the purchase was blocked.
In any case, in Latin America and the Caribbean, Pfizer managed to sell its vaccine to nine countries: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay and Peru, although the details of the agreements were not disclosed.
Complaints from several Latin American politicians
From Lima, sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that despite the agreement reached, Pfizer’s proposals were different from those of other laboratories. For this reason, negotiations on the agreement to purchase 9.9 million doses – two applications are required – lasted more than six months under confidentiality agreements. Finally, the price for each injection was set at USD 12, hence USD 24 for the entire vaccine.
“A state does not usually submit to the fact that another state can decide on the seizure of its property”
On the other hand, Peru ceded some of its sovereignty and accepted that in the event of a dispute, another jurisdiction could enforce the decisions of an arbitral tribunal. “A state does not usually submit to the fact that another state can decide on the seizure of its property,” says specialist lawyer Eduardo Iñiguez.
Against this backdrop, several Latin American politicians have complained about the company’s alleged bad faith in negotiations with underdeveloped countries. When asked about the investigation, Pfizer said, “Globally, we have also provided doses to low- and middle-income countries at a not-for-profit price, including an agreement with Covax to supply up to 40 million doses in 2021.”
Meanwhile, this company expects to sell this year $15 billion worth of vaccines against the coronavirus. BioNTech, Pfizer’s partner, has already received about $445 million in funding from the German government.