World first: Vaccine makers to unveil contracts in Canada

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World's first: Vaccine makers to unveil contracts in Canada

Pfizer, Moderna, Sanofi, Medicago and others talk a ” serious precedent” which will have consequences.

From left to right, Sanofi Canada CEO Jean-Pierre Baylet, Pfizer Canada President Najah Sampson and Moderna Canada CEO Patricia Gauthier.

For the first time anywhere in the world, Canadian parliamentarians have gained access to unredacted contracts that manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines have signed with the government. Pharmaceutical companies are warning Canada of the impact on its reputation.

The decision, which went unnoticed, was ratified Thursday evening, during the parliamentary public accounts committee, in Ottawa. The majority opposition deputies voted for disclosure, under the nose and beard of the leaders of the companies Pfizer, Moderna and Sanofi, who came to testify to convince them to give up.

No unredacted versions have been provided to parliaments around the world, said Moderna Canada CEO Patricia Gauthier. We haven't done this anywhere on the planet,” added Pfizer Canada President Najah Sampson.

The president of Pfizer Canada, Najah Sampson, testified Thursday evening, before the parliamentary committee.

Within two weeks, the 11 MPs who are members of the Public Accounts Committee will be able to read all the details of the contracts in a closed room, supervised by a clerk, without the possibility of recording or taking decisions. notes.

Parliamentarians will thus have access to the price per dose paid by Ottawa to each company, but also to any clauses to which the federal government has submitted.

In total, Canada purchased 169 million doses at a cost of approximately $5 billion. Since December 2020, more than 97 million doses have been administered to the people of the country, unheard of in Canadian history.

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We'll see if we paid exorbitant prices, said the MP behind the motion, Bloc Québécois Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné, in an interview with Radio- Canada.

She wants to analyze the liability clauses, minimum purchase quantities, delivery deadlines and any non-resale or donation clauses.

“We just want to make sure there has been no abuse and error on either side . And if there have been mistakes, that we can learn from our mistakes so as not to make them again in the future, if there is another pandemic. »

—Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné, Bloc Québécois MP for Terrebonne

Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné, Bloc Québécois critic for Public Accounts.

The leaders of pharmaceutical companies have, in turn, explained to parliamentarians that their vote risks harming their industry, which invests billions of dollars each year.

According to the President of Pfizer Canada, this decision will set a precedent with unintended consequences on Canada's reputation and it sends a disturbing message to all industries about how this country is meeting its trade obligations.

“These contracts contain commercially sensitive information that may be of interest to our competitors and prejudice in our discussions with other partners.

— Najah Sampson, President of Pfizer Canada.

Moderna Canada CEO Patricia Gauthier testified Thursday evening before the parliamentary committee.

The CEO of Moderna referred to “high risks”: confidence in the security of information on our contracts and our supply chain is directly linked to the global functioning of our organization.

Sanofi Canada CEO Jean-Pierre Baylet spoke of a “serious precedent”.

“Disclosure of this contract information could put us in a difficult position. The pandemic continues, there are other negotiations going on in other countries.

— Jean-Pierre Baylet, General Manager of Sanofi Canada

The General Manager of Sanofi Canada, Jean-Pierre Baylet.

You don't you are not on hostile ground, warned Bloc MP Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné from the outset. We appreciate your work during the pandemic. You have done something exceptional.

According to her, the companies “exaggerate” the potential consequences of these disclosures. It wouldn't set a dangerous precedent.

Tory MP Kelly McCauley reminded leaders that there have been leaks of such contracts in the media in several countries, and there were no serious consequences.

Several members of the public accounts committee have complained that they have received letters from various chambers of commerce and pharmaceutical companies across the country in an attempt to convince them to vote against the motion.

All the letters threatened us in veiled words, said Kelly McCauley. They implied that your investments might leave the country.

The Auditor General of Canada has already analyzed the contracts and investigated, but MPs recalled that she could not answer their questions about the content of these contracts, due to the confidentiality of commercial information , to which it is subject.

The auditor's report notably concluded that at least 50 million doses had been over-purchased, a value of approximately $1.5 billion.

Tory MP reminded Medicago executive, who was taking part in the committee via videoconference, that his company has received $173 million in aid public service in Canada without having delivered a single dose.

But what could parliamentarians do with the public interest information they find in the contracts if they do? are they subject to strict confidentiality? If there is something scandalous in these contracts, it will eventually be known, replied Nathalie Sinclair-Desgagné to Radio-Canada.

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