The EU flag at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (file image)
The European Parliament has backed its vaccine approval process during the COVID pandemic. Image by AP PHOTO

No, EU hasn’t declared COVID vaccines were illegally approved

David Williams December 5, 2023

The European Union (EU) has declared the COVID-19 vaccines were approved illegally.


False. A small number of European Parliament MPs have complained, but the EU continues to support the approval process.

There are claims the European Union has declared COVID vaccines were approved illegally.

This is false. Eight members of the European Parliament have complained about the vaccine approvals process, in a letter to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The parliament has more than 700 MEPs and a representative told AAP FactCheck the EU’s legislative body stood by its vaccine approval process during the pandemic.

The claim is made in a Facebook post (screenshot here) which states: “EU has declared the COVID vaccines were approved illegally.”

The post features a video of a panel discussion held at the European Parliament hosted by John Laughland, director of Forum for Democracy International, a far-right Dutch political party.

A screenshot from the Facebook video.
 The panel discussion was held at the European Parliament. 

The panel also features: Marcel de Graaff, a Forum for Democracy MEP who has been the subject of censure calls; Joachim Kuhs, an MEP for the far-right Alternative for Germany party; and Dutch vaccine sceptic Willem Engel.

The discussion is about a letter de Graaff, Kuhs and other MEPs sent to the EMA, arguing the vaccines should be withdrawn.

Laughland begins the discussion by saying the panel is being held at the European Parliament, but doesn’t claim it is an official parliamentary event.

In the video, de Graaff explains his objection to what he calls a “messed up” approval process.

“Because if you approve a batch of a certain vaccine or a certain medicine, then you expect that the medicine that is approved is the medicine that is applied to patients or to citizens,” he says (video mark 3min 28sec).

“And if there’s a difference between that then you are basically being vaccinated with a non-approved substance.”

The letter to the EMA – the EU agency responsible for evaluating, supervising and monitoring medicines – is signed by de Graaff and can be read in full here.

A vaccine research scientist in a lab (file image)
 Anti-vaccine politicians are spreading misinformation about the production of COVID jabs. 

One of its claims for why the vaccines should be withdrawn is “the clinical batches used for the clinical trials differed significantly from the commercial batches”.

However, while de Graaff identifies himself as an MEP on the letter, he does not claim the letter represents the European Parliament’s or the EU’s position.

It is co-signed by seven fellow MEPs, all either far-right politicians or known spreaders of vaccine misinformation, including Mislav Kolakusic and Ivan Vilibor Sincic, who featured in a previous AAP FactCheck article on false COVID claims.

The other MEPs are Gilbert Collard, Francesca Donato, Virginie Joron and Bernhard Zimniok.

A European Parliament representative told AAP FactCheck they could not comment on the actions of individual MEPs, but reaffirmed the parliament’s commitment to its COVID-19 strategy and the vaccine approval process.

They said a special committee held a hearing in January 2023 on the impact of disinformation, which resulted in a resolution parliament adopted on lessons learned during the pandemic and recommendations for the future.

“In this text, MEPs reaffirmed that the EU vaccination strategy has been a success and that the primary goal and achievement of the current generation of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is to avoid serious disease, death and morbidity,” the representative said.

“(It also) recognised that vaccines authorised by EMA are effective in this regard, as demonstrated by the COVID-19 vaccination process; underlined that timely vaccinations have saved approximately 250,000 lives (OECD figures) and averted cases of long COVID in the EU.”

A woman receives a vaccination (file image)
 The EU says its vaccine regime should be replicated beyond pandemic situations. 

Points 83, 84 and 89 of the resolution affirm parliament’s commitment to the vaccine approval process followed during the pandemic.

Point 83 specifically calls on the European Commission and member states to “explore applying a similar approach beyond pandemic situations and for the greater harmonisation of regulatory procedures, including accelerated approval times and reduced costs, while ensuring patient safety”.

The Verdict

The claim the European Union has declared COVID vaccines were approved illegally is false.

A European Parliament representative told AAP FactCheck the EU’s legislative body passed a resolution in July 2023 which calls for similar approval processes to be followed beyond the pandemic.

The claims about the approvals were made by a handful of MEPs who are known for vaccine scepticism and spreading misinformation.

False — The claim is inaccurate.

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