European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union Address on Wednesday included a list of the accomplishments of the European Union under her leadership, including this pearl (expressed in the characteristically unidiomatic English of European officialdom): “We have set the building blocks for a Health Union, helping to vaccinate an entire continent – and large parts of the world.” (For video of the speech, see here; for text, here.)
No mention of the fact that the EU vaccinated the European continent for the most part with a vaccine – that of the German company BioNTech and its American partner Pfizer – whose safety and efficacy were unknown per the very terms of the contract which the Commission signed with the companies on behalf of all EU member states, as can be seen below.
Here, as a reminder, is what the same passage looks like in the redacted version of the contract released by the Commission.
(The unredacted version, as discussed in my article here, was published by the Italian public broadcaster RAI over two years ago, but has gone largely ignored, undoubtedly due in no small part to suppression on social media.)
No mention either of the fact that the published results of the very clinical trial which was the basis for the emergency authorisation of the drug include an explicit acknowledgement that it remains unknown whether the so-called vaccine prevents transmission of the virus.
This, of course, undermines the very rationale for “vaccinating an entire continent”, including large swathes of people who were not themselves at virtually any risk from the normally mild illness, but could well be from the allegedly unknown (at the time) adverse effects of the drug.
No mention finally of the fact that even if there was no public-health logic to “vaccinating an entire continent”, there was indeed a mercantile logic for at least one EU member state: namely, Germany. As recounted in my short history of the BioNTech-Pfizer partnership here, the German Government not only supported BioNTech from its inception, but sponsored its very founding.
Ursula von der Leyen was herself a member of the German Government which sponsored the founding of BioNTech in 2008. She had also been a member of the German Government which, after her move to the European Commission in late 2019, would go on to pour another €375 million in subsidies into supporting BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
While the rest of the European economy suffered, in 2021-2022, the years of mass vaccinating the European continent (“and large parts of the world”), BioNTech would go from earning zero profits to earning €31 billion in profits on a nearly 80% profit margin, thus becoming the veritable motor of German economic growth. (For these figures, see here.)
In perhaps not unrelated news, on September 1st, 10 days before the American FDA made a similar announcement, the European Commission announced that it was authorising BioNTech-Pfizer’s “[XBB.1.5-]adapted COVID-19 vaccine for Member States’ autumn vaccination campaigns”.