Health ministry responded quickly and served public interests when procuring COVID-19 vaccines

Support for vulnerable countries had only limited success

On the whole, COVID-19 vaccines were procured efficiently during the pandemic. The Netherlands played an active role in the vaccine negotiations, kept public interests in mind and ultimately procured 102 million vaccines at a cost of €1.8 billion. This amount does not include expenditure via the European Union or the cost of vaccination itself. Vaccines were the main pathway out of the global pandemic. Their importance to society as a whole should therefore not be underestimated. Vaccine negotiations were held chiefly behind closed doors. The Court of Audit investigated vaccine procurement to cast some light on the process.

The Netherlands procured 102 million vaccines, mainly from Pfizer, at a cost of €1.8 billion

figuur coronavaccine

In 2020 and 2021, the Netherlands procured some 109 million vaccines. As it did not need them all, it reduced the number to 102 million in 2023, at a cost of nearly €1.8 billion.


  • Knowledge gained from outside government
  • Played a leading European role and helped expedite procurement
  • Sought a broad palette of vaccines to spread risk
  • Not prepared for procurement of so many vaccines during a crisis
  • Insufficient knowhow at ministry about manufacture and supply of vaccines 
  • Not enough consideration for apparent or real conflicts of interest

Netherlands’ role in Europe

The Netherlands made a meaningful contribution to the rapid procurement of a broad palette of vaccines within Europe. Its consideration of vulnerable countries met with only limited success. However, it donated 23 million vaccines that it did not need itself.

What did we audit?

The Court did not audit the efficiency of vaccine procurement. The total cost of the pandemic to the world and the Netherlands was so high that it overshadowed nearly every other capital expenditure. Economic losses due to the pandemic in the Netherlands alone are estimated at €65 billion. Neither did we investigate the safety of the vaccines. That was a task of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Medicines Evaluation Board (CBG).

The audit reconstructed the vaccine negotiations held in 2020 and 2021 to establish how the Netherlands procured vaccines. Key questions included whether the Dutch government used its best efforts to ensure effective and safely tested vaccines were procured in sufficient numbers to lift the country out of the pandemic. It also asked whether other public interests were kept in mind (such as effective accountability and price transparency). The answers are presented in the audit report.

Analysis of vaccine contracts

With the Netherlands’ help, the European Commission signed 11 vaccine contracts with 8 manufacturers during the pandemic. The Court of Audit analysed each of the contracts to determine whether the government took the most important public interests into account.