How many anti-COVID vaccines Serbia has purchased from Pfizer and at what price will remain a secret for now, because the contract between the Serbian authorities and the company is deemed as “strictly confidential” – says Ministry of Health in its reply to the Raskrinkavanje website.
The former commissioner for information of public importance, Rodoljub Sabic, told Raskrikavanje that he does not understand why the contract is confidential and that it is in the public interest to find out the details about the vaccine, as well as how much money from the budget was spent on its procurement.
On November 10, the Ministry of Health, the Agency for Medicinal Products and the State Health Insurance Fund were asked to provide information on the purchase of vaccines from Pfizer. These institutions were asked for a copy of the contract signed by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as information on the price, quantity and delivery date of the vaccines, and all rights and obligations that Serbia arising from the contract.
The day after the first contingent of 4,800 vaccines arrived in Serbia, the Ministry of Health responded by citing the Law on Information Confidentiality and has refused to provide the requested information.
“This agreement is marked as a ‘strictly confidential’ document in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Information Confidentiality,” the response briefly states, but without referring to the specific articles of that law.
The Law on Information Confidentiality states that the level of secrecy is “strictly determined in a confidential manner in order to prevent serious damage to the interests of the Republic of Serbia.”
In accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information, the public has the right to access data that are held by government agencies that relate to the protection of the health of the population.
“It seems that our government has more or less marked all the information as “strictly confidential”, and this actually means that they think that it would be detrimental to them if Serbian citizens found out how much money they spent on vaccines,” Sabic said.
Labelling this information as “strictly confidential” is also contrary to the Law on the Budget System which prescribes the principle of transparency. Exceptions are related to national security, national defence or international relations.
Serbia will start its coronavirus vaccination program on Thursday, its president said Wednesday, launching the EU candidate country ahead of its wealthier neighbours.
The first shots will go to elderly people in nursing homes, President Aleksandar Vučić told reporters Wednesday. He predicted a mass campaign would begin in mid-January. Nearly 5,000 doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine arrived in Belgrade on Tuesday, after winning approval from the Serbian regulator on December 18.
This post is also available in: Italiano