The company run by Ursula von der Leyen's husband produces anti-covid vaccines with European money

George Marinescu
English Section / 30 octombrie 2023

The company run by Ursula von der Leyen's husband produces anti-covid vaccines with European money

Versiunea în limba română

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week at the Global Gateway Forum in Brussels that she funded a 1.2 billion euro project through which BioNTech and Univercells built modular factories in Rwanda for the production of the vaccine with messenger RNA. As has been known since the covid pandemic, Heiko von der Leyen, Ursula's husband, is the medical director of the company Orgenesis Inc., a partner company of the Germans from BioNTech regarding the production of the anti-Covid-19 vaccine and other types of vaccines.

Thus, the speech given by the president of the European Commission did not go unnoticed by some of the media from Budapest, which reported two days ago that the head of the Community Executive openly admitted that her husband indirectly benefited from part of the European funds coming through Global Gateway - the global investment program of the European Union, financed with 300 billion euros.

In her speech, Ursula von der Leyen said: "For us it is important that the Global Gateway gives countries options, better choices. Because, for many countries in the world, investment options are not only limited, but they all come with many fine print and sometimes at a very high price. Sometimes it's the environment that pays the price. Sometimes it's the workers who are disenfranchised. Sometimes foreign workers are brought in. And sometimes national sovereignty is compromised. No country should faces a situation where the only option to finance its essential infrastructure is to sell its future. We in Europe have a clear strategic interest in joining forces, at eye level, to overcome global challenges. And there is global challenges. A virus knows no borders. (...) In this hour of need, Global Gateway was born. Because, despite the success of mRNA vaccines, many regions of the world have not yet had access to the life-saving technology. So, following to the call from African leaders, the European Commission and Team Europe have joined forces with world-renowned companies such as BioNTech, Univercells and others. We teamed up with Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa to build the continent's first vaccine manufacturing capacity. And, until now, we have already mobilized 1.2 billion euros. Modular factories have already arrived in Rwanda to help produce mRNA vaccines. And it's not just about the Covid-19 vaccines. The amazing thing about mRNA technology is that it promises to effectively combat diseases that - and you know them all - are endemic in Africa, still killing millions of people, such as malaria, tuberculosis or HIV. Vaccine manufacturing was Global Gateway's first flagship project, but of course there are many more. This year alone, our work has focused on nearly 90 flagship projects. For example, we launched a partnership with our friends in Latin America and the Caribbean, who also want to team up on vaccines and medicines."

In the same speech, von der Leyen claims that, soon, there will be such production capacities in Latin America and the Caribbean, also financed by the European Union through the Global Gateway program.

Moreover, at the Global Gateway Forum that took place last week in Brussels, the financing of the program that supports global health was signed with an additional amount of 500 million euros, which strengthens the partnership recently launched between the European Commission, the European Investment Bank ( EIB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Also, another 134 million euros will be available to increase local production and fair access to quality, safe, effective and affordable health products in six African countries, according to an EC statement.

The quoted source states that the funds for which the mentioned entities signed on Thursday will complement the ongoing activities of the Team Europe Initiative on the manufacture of and access to vaccines, medicines and health technologies in Africa (MAV+), launched by President Ursula von der Leyen in May 2021, as response to the call by African leaders to scale up local vaccine production in Africa for Africa, in line with the Partnerships for Vaccine Manufacturing in Africa launched by the African Union.

On the occasion, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: "One of the key lessons of the COVID pandemic has been that the sovereignty of vaccines and medicines is the key to defeating global health threats. This is why, and thanks to the Global Gateway, Team Europe is investing heavily in the local production of vaccines and medicines around the world, with over euro1.2 billion already for Africa.Among many other projects, the manufacturing of vaccines with mRNA technology in and for Africa will be a game changer to the fight against many diseases, from malaria to COVID".

The statements of Ursula von der Leyen raises more questions about the EU's support for billions of euros in vaccine production, especially in light of previous scandals involving the president of the European Commission.

We remind you that, after the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic, the European Commission signed a contract worth 35 billion dollars with the vaccine-producing company Pfizer-BioNTech, but the details of the vaccine purchase agreement concluded are still shrouded in mystery, despite the fact that the mass- the media revealed that Ursula von der Leyen and Albert Bourla, the general director of the Pfizer company, negotiated the terms of the contract through messages sent through the WhatsApp application. According to media reports, in December 2020, after the European Commission signed the contract for the anti-Covid 19 vaccine, Heiko von der Leyen - Ursula von der Leyen's husband - became the director of the pharmaceutical company Orgenesis, which works closely with Pfizer- BioNTech.

That scandal led to the preparation of three files. In the first, journalists from the American newspaper The New York Times asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to compel Ursula von der Leyen to make public the content of the messages exchanged on WhatsApp with Albert Bourla. The second file is criminal and was opened in September 2022 by the European Public Prosecutor's Office led by Laura Codruţa Kovesi, following reports received from European deputies and non-governmental organizations accusing Ursula von der Leyen of abuse of office regarding the contract for the purchase of anti-Covid 19 vaccines signed with Pfizer. In the file from the European Public Prosecutor's Office, investigations are still being carried out in rem, on the act, and no person has been indicted. The third file is pending in the Belgian courts and was opened by a Belgian lobbyist who accuses von der Leyen of abuse of office, claiming that she illegally negotiated, on behalf of Belgium, the quantity of vaccines and the contract with Pfizer.

It seems that this scandal and the related files did not disturb Ursula von der Leyen since BioNTech received the respective contract for the production capacity in Rwanda and is preparing to open EU-funded capacities from the Global Gateway program in other areas of the world.

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