Pfizer has formalized 73 deals for its coronavirus vaccine. According to Transparency International, a London-based advocacy group, only five contracts have been formally published by governments, and these with “significant redactions.”
“Hiding contracts from public view or publishing documents filled with redacted text means we don’t know how or when vaccines will arrive, what happens if things go wrong and the level of financial risk buyers are absorbing,” said Tom Wright, research manager at the Transparency International Health Program.
Public Citizen analyzed an unredacted draft agreement between the company and Albania, as well as unredacted final documents from Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Peru and the European Commission. Redacted documents published by Chile, the United States and Britain provide further context, though they are missing key details.
The contract reached with Brazil prohibits the government from making “any public announcement concerning the existence, subject matter or terms of [the] Agreement” or commenting on its relationship with Pfizer without the prior written consent of the company.
“This is next-level stuff,” said Tahir Amin, an intellectual property lawyer who co-founded I-Mak, a nonprofit global health organization.
Pfizer exerted control over the supply of vaccine doses after contracts were signed. The Brazilian government was restricted from accepting donations of Pfizer doses or making its own donations. Pfizer also included clauses in contracts with Albania, Brazil and Colombia that it could unilaterally change delivery schedules in the case of shortages.
In contracts with Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Peru, governments were required to sign a document that says each “expressly and irrevocably waives any right of immunity which either it or its assets may have or acquire in the future.” The first four also were required to waive immunity against “precautionary” seizure of their assets.
Public Citizen found contracts that required governments “‘to indemnify, defend and hold harmless Pfizer’ from and against any and all suits, claims, actions, demands, damages, costs and expenses related to vaccine intellectual property.”