The Hungarian government has published its vaccine procurement contracts with the producers of Sputnik V and Sinopharm’s vaccine. In the past months, the government avoided all requests of publication, despite being in agreement that the contracts are of public interest.
The main noticeable difference between the two contracts is that while the government purchased the Russian vaccine directly, the purchase of the Chinese vaccine took place through a third party, at a much higher price.
Hungarian Government’s Previous Secrecy Around Vaccine Contracts
The Hungarian government has, until now, avoided publishing the vaccine contracts. Liberal news portal 444.hu went to multiple government departments asking for the details of the vaccine orders but received no information. Minister Gulyás told the news portal that the documents would be shared, as they are public interest data, however he did not say where the information could be located.
Independent MP Bernadett Szél also requested the government to share the contracts before they were published on Thursday. She shared the news on Facebook, saying that she was told from four departments that they simply did not have time to send them over.
According to Szél, the government had purposefully been withholding this information, and has only shared the contracts after Russian and Chinese approval.
Hungary Purchases Chinese Vaccines at a Steep Price
Hungary’s National Public Health Center (NNK) does not receive its vaccines directly through Chinese vaccine producer Sinopharm, but rather through a Hungarian pharmaceutical company, Danubia Pharma Ltd. This company is linked to another one that was involved in Hungary’s mass ventilator procurement last Spring, which resulted in the purchase of overpriced machines in such a quantity that the government now wants to sell thousands of unneeded but pricey ventilators, currently in storage.
5 million doses of the Chinese vaccine have been ordered, each dose costing 30 euros, plus a five percent value added tax, making it a total of 31.5 euros.
Danubia Pharma has agreed to ship and store 500 thousand doses each month after the signing of the contract, with 3.5 million doses arriving and being stored between May and June.
The agreement does not specify under what conditions and for how much money Danubia Pharma is procuring the vaccines and passing them on to the Hungarian government.
MP Hadházy Accuses Gov’t of Corruption
According to independent opposition representative Ákos Hadházy, the Hungarian government purchased the Chinese vaccine for twice its buying price.
The representative backed up his argument by saying that Senegal had recently signed on a contract for the vaccine paying 19 US dollars per dose, compared to the Hungarian government’s 30 Euros per dose, purchased through Danubia Pharma.
Hadházy’s allegation brings up questions of potential corruption. The member of parliament calculated that Danubia Pharma receives 150 million euros for shipping in the Chinese vaccine, meaning that if the vaccine is overpriced by twice its actual value, there is a net profit of 71 million Euros.
Controversial Sputnik V Agreement Conditions
Unlike its agreement for the Chinese vaccine, the National Public health Center did not purchase the Russian Sputnik V vaccine through a third party. NNK has directly ordered at 19.9 US dollars apiece, 300 thousand Sputnik V doses within 30 days, 500 thousand within 60 days, and 200 thousand within 90 days.
An amendment was later made to the contract, in which the government ordered another one million doses of Sputnik V.
Liberal news portal 444.hu ran the contract by an expert in pharmaceutical contracts, who found a few worrying aspects to the December 21, 2020 agreement.
Since this is a new vaccine, the expert understood that at section 6.1, the contract states that the Russian producer would not take any responsibility for any potential damaging changes that may impact people inoculated with the vaccine.
At section 6.2, however, they found it suspicious that the contract maximizes the seller’s financial liability in one hundred thousand US dollars. This does not stand out for the three thousand doses ordered at 19.90 US dollars per two doses, but it appears very minimal when considering the amendment made in January, adding one million vaccines to the order under unchanged conditions to the seller’s financial liability.
This is somewhat explained in section 9.3, where the Hungarian party agrees to potential legal discrepancies to follow Russian law, and to be debated under a Moscow judiciary. According to 444’s expert, a political agreement was made, which ensured the government more vaccines in return that it would not hold the Russian producer accountable, and would be liable to Russian law.
Head PMO Calls on EC to Publish Vaccine Contracts
Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás confirmed the prices of the vaccines, posting them on his Facebook page.
The minister also called on the European Union to allow for the publication of European Commission vaccine contracts. Gulyás, however, noted that the EU vaccines are cheaper but only the Commission can reveal the prices.
Gulyás said that Brussels “has banned” publication of the contracts, saying that “many countries are much further ahead with their own purchases.” He stated that if the disclosure of such data “does not harm the interests of China or Russia, it will not harm the interests of the EU either.”
European Commission Responds to Gulyás
The European Commission’s Budapest office responded to Gulyás’ statement, saying that the publication of such information is only possible with the approval of contracted partners, such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The EC has contacted vaccine companies requesting approval for publication, publishing those signed with AstraZeneca, CureVac, and Sanofi-GSK. Three contracts have yet to be published.
The commission added that it cannot share public contract details about planned and projected volumes of shipments.
The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine is by far the most expensive vaccine at 31.50 euros for a single dose. It is followed by Moderna’s vaccine at 29 euros, Pfizer-BioNTech’s at 17.5 euros, Sputnik V at 7.50 euros (they sold it to Hungary for 19.9 Dollars (EUR 16.7) , i.e. 8.35 Euros/dose), and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine at 3.5 euros per dose.
featured photo illustration by György Varga/MTI