A(H1N1): the state facing the risks of a pandemic
Through close examination of the Pandemrix vaccine purchase contract from a legal and political point of view, researchers analysed the position and role of the Belgian state within nowadays society. An issue that conceals many others relating to the mechanisms of pressure, the power of states, pharmaceutical groups and the WHO, and the relative neutrality of the experts.
A rapidly marketed vaccine
On 22nd July 2009, upon the combined initiative of the ministries of the interior and health, together with the department of health, and following numerous expert reports, the Belgian government signed a contract with the pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK). This contract initially provided for the delivery of more than 12 million doses of the Pandemrix vaccine at a cost of EUR 110 million. “Owing to the perceived urgency”, François Thoreau explains, “this vaccine benefited from an accelerated marketing authorisation procedure by the European Commission. Therefore, its efficacy wasn’t entirely guaranteed but at the time, it was a matter of the best perceived solution to prevent an epidemic.”
Following the example of the majority of European governments, Laurette Onkelinx, the then health minister, revised the contract downwards, finally signing it for the sum of EUR 85 million for the delivery of 8 million doses. Highly controversial and supposedly confidential, the contents of this contract were nonetheless revealed in a Belgian daily on 5th May 2010. In a paper that has just been published by CRISP, ULg (François Thoreau and Nicolas Rossignol) and UCL (Cédric Cheneviere) (1) researchers have gone over the contract with a fine-toothed comb to provide a legal and political analysis of the role of the state and its governmental responsibility in the management of this crisis.
(1) François Thoreau, Cédric Cheneviere, Nicolas Rossignol, Action publique et responsabilité gouvernementale: la gestion de la grippe A(H1N1) en 2009, in Courrier Hebdomadaire du CRISP, no. 2138-2139, 2012