Vaccines Liability risks emerge as an obstacle in Europe's COVID-19 vaccine negotiations: Reuters

27 August 2020

Eric Sagonowsky / FirecePharma

With all eyes on the hunt for COVID-19 vaccines, Europe’s supply negotiations with drugmakers have hit snags over potential liability for side effects, Reuters reports. 

While some companies are in "advanced discussions" to supply tens or hundreds of millions of doses to European countries, only AstraZeneca has completed an agreement—for 400 million doses.

That deal provides AstraZeneca some protection, according to the news service. It "foresees that liabilities and financial costs are shared among the parties,” Belgium's medicines agency told Reuters. AstraZeneca has agreed to provide doses at no profit during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and GSK, CureVac and Moderna are in “advanced” discussions to supply doses if their candidates succeed. But those deals haven't yet been finalized, and liability risks could play into the talks. 

In the U.S., the government assumes liability for vaccine side effects, an approach aimed at ensuring widespread vaccination, Reuters reports. But in Europe, laws place liability for side effects on drugmakers in most cases. Amid the pandemic, the EU has sought to reduce that liability to encourage faster vaccine research, according to the news service. 

So far, liability issues have played into the EU's negotiations with U.S. pharma giants Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, according to the report. 

Aside from the legal concerns, EU negotiations previously hit snags over the timing of payments and price, Reuters reported last month.

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