FRANKFURT (Reuters) -A Pfizer executive with a lead role in negotiating a COVID-19 vaccine bulk supply agreement with the European Commission “categorically” ruled out that the U.S. drugmaker’s chief executive agreed the contract via mobile phone text messages.
“As to whether a contract negotiation such as this contract which you referred to, 1.8 billion doses, was negotiated through an SMS, I can categorically tell you that would not be the case,” Janine Small, president of international developed markets at Pfizer, told the European Parliament’s special committee on COVID-19 on Monday.
She added that such talks involve far too many people on both sides and take far too long to be conducted via mobile phone texts.
“I know that because I was involved in all the negotiations and discussions from the very start in 2020,” Small said.
In an interview with the New York Times in April 2021, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen revealed she had exchanged texts with Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla for a month while the contract was under negotiation, prompting calls to publish the exchange.
The Commission said in June this year that it no longer had the texts, which later drew criticism from the European Union’s ombudswoman.
The contract signed last year was the biggest ever sealed for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU committing to buy 900 million Pfizer-BioNTech shots, with an option to buy another 900 million.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Jan Harvey and Susan Fenton)
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