Germany, the Birthplace of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 Vaccine, Now Wants to Cancel Its Vaccine Deal

“Too many doses, billions in costs – the government [of Germany] wants to cancel the vaccine deal.”

When Pfizer-BioNtech’s experimental mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (a term that will be used rather loosely throughout this article) hit the market, in December 2020, it was met with a mixture of relief, excitement and pride in Germany, the country where it was developed. In some quarters it was treated as a literal godsend, including on the magazine cover of the December 23, 2020 edition of the German weekly Stern, whose main title read, “Vaccination: An Act of Charity”:

Much has changed since then. COVID-19 vaccine mandates and passports have come and, in most cases, gone (at least for now). But in the process tens of millions of unvaccinated people in so-called liberal democracies were demonized, systematically discriminated against and deprived of access to basic government services, public buildings and even the ability to travel or work.

As IM Doc noted in the comments section of KLG’s fine essay, The Ethics of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates: Where Do We Stand and Where Should We Go Regarding Social and Biomedical Responses to Pandemic, the mandates for these experimental drugs “went against the very essence of two of the most important statements of our ethical code as a civilization – The Nuremberg Code and the Helsinki Declarations. More importantly, they were a slap to the face of one of the guiding principles of medical ethics since Hippocrates – that of patient autonomy.” All for the sake of vaccines that are not nearly as safe or as effective as originally claimed.

As I said, things have changed. Even in Germany, a country that came closer than most to enacting a universal COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Pfizer-BioNtech’s scientific godsend has become a hugely expensive burden.

“Too many doses, billions in costs – the government wants to cancel the vaccine deal.”

So reads the headline of an article published by Die Welt on Dec. 31, 2022. According to the article, there are currently more than 150 million surplus vials in the government’s central warehouse — and no end in sight to the deliveries. The government now wants to cancel or reduce the additional orders made through the EU Commission for 2023 and 2024. Germany’s Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach — who just a few months ago proposed taking Germany’s vaccine passport restrictions to a whole new level — is taking flak as allegations mount that he reordered a huge new batch of the vaccines despite growing stockpiles amid slumping demand for the boosters.

More information seeped out earlier this week, in response to a freedom of information act request made by the right-wing populist political party Alternative for Germany (AfD). According to a later piece in Die Welt, Germany’s government is actually sitting on a stockpile of over 30 million unused doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. But it is also on the hook for a total of 375 million doses of the Pfizer BioNtech COV-19 vaccine, of which 212 are yet to be delivered [machine translated]:

There is a surplus of around 32 million vaccine doses in the federal central warehouse. The federal government is also obliged to purchase around 375 million doses of the Corona vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer. But what happens to the surplus vaccine doses?

Germany has committed to buy around 375 million doses of the Corona vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer. This emerged from a response by the federal government to a request from the AfD parliamentary group, which the Bundestag published on Tuesday. Accordingly, as of November 30, 2022, the Federal Republic was contractually obliged to purchase around 283 million doses. In addition, there is a purchase obligation “for a further” 92.4 million. The government did not provide any information about the price per dose. This is subject to contractual confidentiality and may not be made public.

Both Pfizer BioNtech and the European Commission, which negotiated the EU’s bulk purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, have agreed to keep schtum about the price of the vaccines, as well as a whole host of other details enclosed within the vaccine contracts. Those contracts are now the subject of an investigation by Europe’s Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

Both the EU Court of Auditors and the EU’s ombudsman Emily O’Reilly have raised serious questions about the preliminary negotiations that took place between Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the lead up to the EU’s biggest vaccine procurement deal. Both von der Leyen and the Commission she heads have refused to disclose the content of her communications with Bourla. Signed in May 2021, the resulting deal was for the acquisition of up to 1.8 billion doses of the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.

Although the EU has not disclosed how much it paid for the vaccines, credible estimates have surfaced that place the price per shot at around €20. According to sections of the vaccine contracts seen by the Financial Times, the price for the vaccines in the EU’s biggest vaccine contract was €19.50 a pop — a 26% markup on the initial price (€15.50) paid in late December 2020.

From that price, one can extrapolate that the EU paid up to €35 billion for the up to 1.8 billion vaccines. Meanwhile, Germany’s federal government will have paid around €5 billion-6 billion for its 375 million vaccine doses, most of which were ordered after May 2021, at the higher prices. According to a response last January by the Bundestag to a previous FOI request from AfD, Angela Merkel’s last government made its biggest order of Pfizer BioNtech vaccines, for 168 million doses, on September 22, 2021, just four days before Germany’s general elections.

Now, back to the second Die Welt piece:

According to the Federal Ministry of Health’s vaccination dashboard, a total of around 163 million doses of vaccine from Biontech/Pfizer were delivered by the end of last year, as well as around 60 million doses from other manufacturers such as Moderna. According to the data, more than 85% of the almost 223 million doses delivered have been administered so far. But there are still about 32 million doses left over. According to the vaccination dashboard, 7,000 people are currently being vaccinated per day.

But that’s not the whole story. According to the Bundestag’s response to the first FOI request from AfD, the German government ordered a total of 553.9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from seven manufacturers (Astra Zeneca, Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi/GSK, Valneva and Novavax) between August 2020 and December 2021. Almost all of them were ordered before September 2021. As NC reader Witzbold notes in a tweet, this suggests that the government already had plans for frequent boosters (and the accompanying vaccine mandates) well in advance of the first booster campaign of winter ’21/’22.

Of those 553.9 million doses, 330.9 million are still yet to be delivered, according the Die Welt article. That doesn’t include the additional 92.4 million Pfizer vaccines ordered by the Scholz government, which, once added, makes for a grand total of 646.3 million vaccine doses — equivalent to 7.8 doses per man, woman and child.

Of those, roughly 422 million doses are reportedly still yet to be delivered while some 32 million are sitting idly in the federal government’s central warehouse. At the current rate of take up of 7,000 doses per day, it will take roughly 181 years to use up all 454 million of the surplus and yet-to-be-delivered vaccine doses. According to the US FDA the shelf-life of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines is 6-9 months, and only when stored at a temperature of -90 to -60 degrees Celsius. In other words, almost all of the vaccines will go to waste.

This may partly explain why Germany’s government is so desperate to get China to approve Pfizer-BioNtech’s mRNA COVID vaccines for its gargantuan population as it abandons its “zero” COVID lockdown policies. This was one of the issues German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised with his Chinese counterparts during a visit to China in November. Among the coterie of German business leaders accompanying Scholz on the trip was BioNTech chief Uğur Şahin. From Politico:

Scholz agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping and outgoing Prime Minister Li Keqiang that the countries will work more closely in the fight against the coronavirus, he said.

“This also includes an approval of the BioNTech vaccine for expats in China,” he said during a press conference in Beijing.

The chancellor did not specify if he was referring to German expats only, or all expats in the country. But one influential financial news outlet, Caixin, reported that the BioNTech vaccine would only be available to “German expats” in China.

But down the line, Scholz made clear he hoped this would be a “first step” toward the wider use of the vaccine, through the general approval of the shot in China.

“Closer cooperation with the EU medicines agency [the European Medicines Agency] would pave the way here,” he added, suggesting that BioNTech’s marketing authorization application is still pending.

The vaccines will indeed only be available to German expats living in China, according to a Reuters article from yesterday (Jan 5). In what looks like a quid pro quo, the German health ministry in early December authorized the importation of China’s Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine for administration to Chinese nationals living in Germany, despite the fact the European Union’s drugs regulating agency is yet to give the shot the go-ahead.

Public Funds Come Full Circle

One bizarre aspect of the German federal government’s complaints about the growing mountains of surplus Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines is that Germany’s federal government was an important seed investor in BioNtech. Without public funds and support, the biotech firm may never have got off the ground, and probably would not have survived as long as it did without selling a single product.

Two successive German governments — both headed by Angela Merkel and in which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen performed a variety of roles, including most notably (and most notoriously) as minister of defense — helped finance the founding of BioNTech. The Federal Ministry of Research’s “Go-Bio” program involved not only funding but also government mentoring, as well as help in luring private investors. The company also benefited from another of the ministry’s funding initiatives, the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition (Spitzencluster-Wettbewerb).

In 2019, the firm received a fresh round of capital from a number of venture capital funds and hedge funds as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was already heavily invested in Pfizer. China’s Fosun Pharma also invested $135 million in BioNtech in exchange for 1.58 million shares in the German biotech company and the future development and marketing rights to its mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 in China. So far, it has failed to make good on that investment: as previously mentioned, China has refused to approve any Western-produced mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

Once the pandemic began, BioNTech rapidly shifted its focus from developing an mRNA-based cancer “vaccine” to developing an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. To that end, it received €375 million in subsidies from Germany’s Ministry of Health. In the first months of the pandemic the company also received €150 million in debt financing from the EU’s European Investment Bank (EIB) – under the stewardship of its long-standing president, former German foreign office official Werner Hoyer.

The rest, as they say, is history. In 2020, BioNtech reported revenues of €482 million, a more than 400% increase on 2019. In 2021, the year of the vaccine’s roll out, it brought in €18.97 billion, a mind-watering 39-fold year-on-year increase, of which a whopping €14.352 billion (75%) was gross profit.

Of that sum, roughly €3.2 billion flowed into central and local government tax coffers. As The Guardian reported in December 2021, such was the size of the windfall for the city of Mainz, where BioNtech is headquartered, that the city council announced plans to pay off a 30-year debt load of €1.3 billion as well as lure other biotech companies by lowering sharply its local corporate tax rate.

So, at least some of the German public funds invested in BioNtech and spent on its sole product line (for now), the COVID-19 vaccines, have come back full circle into public coffers. Presumably, local and federal governments will continue to benefit financially if BioNtech is able to bring to market some of the new treatment platforms it is currently testing (mostly with mRNA technologies), including for influenza, shingles, HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV), tuberculosis and cancer.

That is more than can be said for all the other national EU governments, not to mention governments elsewhere (here’s looking at you, Canada), that are sitting on ever-growing mountains of surplus vaccines they will never be able to shift, many of which will end up going to waste. In April 2022, the government of Poland, which had to buy an extra batch of 70 million vaccines under existing agreements despite already having 30 million surplus vials in stock, said “już wystarczy!” (apparently Polish for “enough already!”).

Warsaw said it will not take delivery of any more COVID-19 vaccines. At the time, the Polish government acknowledged that its unilateral decision would result in a legal conflict with Pfizer. An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in May that EU countries would probably lose any legal case brought against suppliers since contracts could not be changed unilaterally. A couple of months later, after galvanising support from eastern member states to pressure Brussels into renegotiating COVID vaccine contracts, Poland’s Health Minister Adam Niedzielski announced that EU negotiations would begin in July.

Warsaw’s proposal was to spread the current two-year delivery scheme over 10 years and give responsibility for purchasing the vaccines to a newly formed institution – the European Commission’s Health Preparedness and Response Authority, or HERA. But since July, as far as I can tell, little appears to have happened. The fact that the EU’s largest economy, Germany, is now talking about the possibility of cancelling its own vaccine purchases would suggest that the problems are far from over.


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  1. linda amick

    Funny how there are always unlimited funds for whatever governments want to push whereas all the public gets is how we need to cut back and reduce our lifestyles.
    War and vaccines know no cutbacks.

  2. Amigauser

    Why would China let itself be dependent on a vital piece of technology from a member of the NATO alliance, that has shown itself to be completely obedient to Washington and is two faced in its foreign dealings (Minsk treaty)?

  3. John Beech

    A deal was made in good faith. Now one party wants to break the deal. OK, happens all the time. But let me tell you this, it’s Contracts 101 to have an exit clause.

    Major point being, what’s the contract say? And if there’s no exit, then presumably this was for a sound reason because otherwise, it would be legal malpractice to enjoin a contract without an exit provision.

    Bottom line? Why is this playing out in public? My advice? Someone needs to grow a pair and shut up.

    1. Objective Ace

      Probably wouldnt be too difficult to make the case that Pfizer lied or misled about critical details — effectivenss, safety profile etc which the contract was based on. There’s precedent for contracts based on fraud to be overturned.

      Its doubtful Pfizer (or the German goverment) would want such information released if the case went to court. Better for Pfizer to just cancel the contract on its own.. which is perhaps why Germany is making public noise preemptively

    2. Societal Illusions

      that these contracts are secret impacts the issue. not sure how growing a pair and shutting up are connected?

    3. The Rev Kev

      John, as a businessman I would guess that you have signed a number of contracts in your time. Have you ever signed a contract with a person that sold you a bill of goods? And that what was agreed upon on was not what was delivered to you at all? Did you take that laying down and eat the extra costs?

      These vaccines are not what was agreed upon and it may turn out that they are the greatest disaster in public health in history. So let the Germans use the process of discovery to find out about them – without waiting the 75 years that these corporations wanted. And dig into the financial dealings of their negotiators too. No way in hell will I ever go for a mRNA vaccine myself.

      But the evidence is coming out that this contract was signed without public review and more than likely a lot of kickbacks. Remember how Ursula van der Leyen signed all those contracts on behalf of the EU – and then deleted all her phone records so that nobody could see what was actually agreed? Going public may be a tactic to get public pressure behind these investigators.

    4. notabanker

      Having negotiated contracts for the last 25 years with Fortune 500 corporations, termination rights are usually heavily negotiated. Termination for cause is pretty common, but the thresholds for “cause” are usually quite onerous and designed to prevent either party from exiting a contract because they’ve changed their mind. For instance, gross negligence, acts of omission and fraud are pretty standard thresholds, but I routinely see companies try to strike violations of law, which is sickening.

      Given the fleet of attorneys on staff in big pharma, I would bet that contract is not only pretty iron clad regarding the ability to terminate, but also absolve the pharma from any chance of any liability. I would be shocked if the pharmas did anything other than, “take it or leave it” terms. And governments desperate for any type of solution happily signed along the dotted line, much to the consternation of their own attorneys. “Leverage” is a powerful tool.

      1. square coats

        I think I recall Pfizer refusing to sell its vaccines to at least some countries (maybe/probably all? I can’t remember precisely) unless the government of the country would agree to absolve Pfizer of liability for any potential adverse effects from the vaccines, specifically including those effects resulting from gross negligence on the part of Pfizer.

    5. lyman alpha blob

      Oh John, don’t you know by now that the West is not agreement-capable? If they don’t like a contract, they just blow it up. Sometimes literally – see Nordstream 2.

      1. JustTheFacts

        I’d be mightily impressed if a Western government blew up any Big Pharma company… and imprisoned those who caused so much damage.

    6. JTMcPhee

      How come contracts are sacrosanct when it comes to screwing the public on massive scale, yet corporations and Big Finance seem always to be able to breach with impunity and/or disappear into bankruptcy? My very distant learning in law school contracts would lead to a to of ways to void or reform these kinds of contracts. Fraud in the inducement, against public policy, lots of ways. The need for a pair of cojones is on the part of public officials to suck it up, break their backhander deals with the corps and their “elected” cronies, and claw back the ill-gotten gains.

      Likely ever to happen? It is to laugh.

    1. IM Doc

      And seemingly without even an ironic glance, Israel was the country which was on board with the whole Bio-N-Tech product lock, stock and barrel from the beginning. Loud and proud. Indeed, I was just informed today that the Israeli Health Service has unconditionally mandated today that every single medical student in Israel will have all 3 boosters. No exceptions. JUST THIS WEEK. Interesting this is even happening in the country that first made public its findings in myocarditis in younger people.

      When I read through historical accounts, there are always head scratchers. My prediction is this fact will likely be one such issue for those reading history 200 years from now.

  4. Mikel

    “…According to the article, there are currently more than 150 million surplus vials in the government’s central warehouse — and no end in sight to the deliveries…”

    The implications of that should chill people to the bone – in any country.
    “No end in sight”
    Have to consider “no end in sight” for repeated attempts to force inject (mandate) all kinds of experiments from this point on.
    It’s complete nightmare that has also involved turning the definition of “vaccine” upside down.

  5. Oh

    These family blogging pharma companies like Pfizer first take $$$$$$$ from the US Govt. to develop the vaccine. The US Govt. gives them 75 year protection on the formula and know how. Then they turn around and sell it for bloated prices. Now the Germany govt. sign a deal to buy too much. The US Govt. keeps pushing this snake oil through Joe the snake oil salesman. This is how fascism works.

  6. teiemka

    Rules based order………

    Karma’s a bitch, recall how the western world was altruistically elbowing each other out of the way “me first, me first” to hoard vaccines, leaving the rest of the world with nichts.

  7. lyman alpha blob

    Perhaps Germany wants out of the deal because they listened to Joe Rogan’s recent podcast with Bret Weinstein.

    Weinstein also uses the term “vaccines” very loosely, and makes a good case that Geert van den Bosch, a doctor who predicted that giving “vaccines” in the midst of a pandemic would fuel new variants and was widely excoriated for it, was correct.

    1. Basil Pesto

      a doctor who predicted that giving “vaccines” in the midst of a pandemic would fuel new variants and was widely excoriated for it, was correct.

      In the context of uncontrolled transmission, new variants were always destined to emerge. Vaccines are irrelevant to this except that when there is uncontrolled transmission combined with mass vaccination, selection pressure will apply to subsequent variants to evade the nAbs induced by past vaccination (without vaccination, they would evolve to avoid immunity conferred by infection). It is the constant replication that comes as a result of unfettered transmission, and not vaccines, which drive evolution per se.

      1. Heraclitus

        I have no special medical or biological knowledge, but it just seems logical that, had more people gotten Covid faster, i.e..if there had no vaccines and no lock downs, the virus would have had less time to develop new variants.

        If this is incorrect, please explain why.

        1. Basil Pesto

          If this is incorrect, please explain why.

          Actually, would you kindly explain your apparently logical reasoning? It is completely non-sensical.

          Replication, which happens inside human infectees, drives mutation. Setting aside vaccines for a moment (there were several variants before vaccination, and Delta itself probably counts as a pre-vaccine variant), If spread is curtailed and halted by non-pharmaceutical interventions including quarantine/cordons sanitaires or, if you insist, lockdowns (which were never implemented in the USA, where transmission was never halted, unlike western europe until July 2020, Australia, NZ, China, Taiwan, South Korea etc), then replication and therefore mutation (new variants) cannot occur. This is why the variants of the Wuhan/Wild Type virus (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) emerged from regions of the world where spread was, in fact, un- or scarcely- controlled (and not in Australia, NZ, China, Taiwan, South Korea, etc). The question of the virus not having “time” to make new variants is, to repeat, nonsensical. It just needs replication opportunities. These are created by the uncontrolled spread of the virus, simple as that.

          This basic concept was probably made plainly clear to me to me on NC maybe two years ago. User and contributor GM is something of an authority on the subject. This website is a really good resource!

          1. Dr. Nod

            Good summary Basil Pesto, (and I do have special knowledge in genetics and molecular genetics). It is also worth pointing out that the latest problematic variants the BQ lineage and the XBB lineage emerged from Nigeria and India, countries where the vaccination frequencies are relatively low.

            The development of the mRNA vaccines was an impressive achievement, and they worked extraordinarily well. I (and many, many others) foresaw that variants for which the original vaccines conferred reduced immunity were likely to emerge. One of the great things about the mRNA vaccines is that they can be updated very easy to deal with new variants. I though I might have to get a new booster every 4-6 months to deal with emerging variants, but that is good alternative to death or long COVID. I am no expert on the antigenicity of the coat protein, but I also thought there was a possibility of a bivalent vaccine that targeted the coat protein as well as the spike protein. If successful, it would be less likely that resistant variants would emerge. Shockingly, however, (actually, maybe not shockingly) Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna kept pumping out vaccines against the original variant as their effectiveness declined. It seems they were more interested in sales than saving lives, and there was no real financial or governmental incentive to try to stay ahead of the emerging variants. It looks like the current vaccines will be of little value against XBB.1.5 (although I obviously hope that I am wrong).

            Getting back to the original article, however, these numbers of vaccine doses seem bizarre relative to the population of Germany.

            1. Dr. Nod

              I should add that there is selection pressure to evade the antibody response from previous natural infections (not just vaccinations) so new strains will emerge in the complete absence of vaccines.

            2. Yves Smith

              While all of that is true, and I remember the original argument about the ease of tuning mRNA vaccines, the problem is that the mRNA vaccines appear to induce immune disregulation. The European Medicines Agency, while not unpacking its reasoning, rejected the idea of vaccinating against Covid every six months, which is what would in theory be required to keep patients “current”. And now a couple of high quality studies have found that repeated boosting lead to negative efficacy: yes, there is some initial improvement in protection, but that wanes very quickly and the stats say patients become net more vulnerable.

    2. chris

      I’m not a biologist or a doctor but from what I do know based on college and working with people in those professions made me think Dr. Weinstein was wrong about quite a few things he said on that podcast with Joe Rogan. But he also made some really good points that should be discussed.

      I feel like the biggest question that has been glossed over everytine the origin debate rears up is WHY DO WE HAVE BIOLABS IN OTHER COUNTRIES???? I remember taking molecular biology courses and being told how important it was for the US to have standards so that research could be done safely. Whereas in China, my prof said, all you needed was a bunsen burner and a dream. So now we’re giving US government grants to people outside the country to work on dangerous things and we citizens aren’t supposed to ask why???

  8. Sam F

    Let’s consider instead where the surplus vaccines should be used as an act of charity, before they become outmoded by new variants. If there is a good use for crocodile tears, it is when inducing selfish nations to make charitable donations.

    Pfizer needs deep refrigeration IIRC, so we may hope that there is a surplus of those, or send them to needy nations that can cover that cost with international support.

    1. KLG

      This has always been a huge stumbling block. My small institution has about a dozen such freezers that hold at -80F, up to $15,000 per unit. We cleaned out several as a storage space for local stocks to be handled by the Health Department. They never called. Makes one wonder. A supply chain that requires shipment on dry ice and such storage is a “first world” thing, and even that is iffy.

  9. Jeff Andrews

    Without even discussing the so called ‘vaccine’, Poland did this stunt with Russia about its long term piped gas contract and insisted on spot payments in the small window they were lower. Needless to say the EU sided with Poland and they got there spot price, the rest you know. Let’s see if the EU backs them up against Germany.

  10. Isla White

    Having used mRNA to grow a pair … can we ask why is no attention being put on Ursula’s husband ???

    Heiko von der Leyen is director of Orgenesis, a biotechnology company whose shareholders include Pfizer. With Pfizer, in turn, his wife Ursula von der Leyen had signed a 71-billion contract for the production of 4.6 billion vaccine doses.

    Why else would Ursula and the Pfizer boss himself refuse to explain themselves?

  11. podcastkid

    Die Welt link goes to some article that seems to be about cookies you pick up while online. Am I wrong?

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