The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Albert Bourla, has canceled an appointment to testify at a hearing before the European Parliament’s special committee, according to reports.
Bourla’s decision to pull out of the testimony comes after reports emerged exposing his involvement in “secretive vaccine deals.”
Politico is reporting that Bourla was expected to face tough questions from EU officials about the newly-exposed deals.
Bourla was scheduled to appear before the panel on October 10.
The Big Pharma boss was called on to give testimony alongside key officials involved in the EU’s vaccine procurement process.
The committee arranged the hearing to discuss how to respond to future pandemics.
“Other pharmaceutical executives have addressed the committee, including the CEO of Moderna and senior officials from AstraZeneca and Sanofi,” according to the report.
However, Bourla has yet to address the panel.
The committee’s chair, Belgian MEP Kathleen Van Brempt, told Politico that she “deeply regrets” the decision taken by Pfizer.
After a visit to BioNTech’s headquarters last week, Van Brempt had said in a written statement that she looked forward to discussions “with other CEOs” including “Mr. Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer” on October 10, the outlet notes.
In early September, an audit report into the EU’s vaccine procurement strategy raised questions over Bourla’s relationship with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen before they struck a multibillion-euro vaccine deal.
The report, by the European Court of Auditors, found that von der Leyen had been directly involved in preliminary negotiations for the EU’s biggest vaccine contract, for up to 1.8 billion doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which was concluded in May 2021.
This was a departure from the negotiating procedure followed with other contracts, where a joint negotiating team made up of officials from the Commission and member countries conducted exploratory talks.
In April, von der Leyen admitted that she had been texting with Bourla for a month straight while they were negotiating the massive contract.
Two months later, those text messages mysteriously disappeared.
Reuters reported at the time that the disappearing texts triggered accusations of maladministration by the EU’s ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.
Bourla and von der Leyen’s cozy relationship was noted last year by the New York Times.
Bourla reportedly told the NYT that he and von der Leyen had “developed a deep trust because we got into deep discussions.”
“She knew details about the variants, she knew details about everything.
“So that made the discussion, way more engaged.”
And now, Bourla refuses to answer questions about it.