Poland’s health minister announced on Tuesday that it will not accept or pay for more doses of COVID-19 vaccine under the European Union’s supply contract, laying the groundwork for a legal battle with makers.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Poland and other EU members received COVID-19 vaccines under supply contracts negotiated by the European Commission with vaccine manufacturers such as BioNTech SE, Pfizer, and Moderna.
Pfizer is Poland’s largest supplier. However, vaccination rates in the country are lower than in the rest of the European Union, and the government has excess vaccine supply, which it has sold or donated to other nations.
“At the end of last week, we used the force majeure clause and informed both the European Commission and the main vaccine producer that we are refusing to take these vaccines at the moment and we are also refusing to pay,” health minister Adam Niedzielski told private broadcaster TVN24.
“Indeed, the consequence of this will be a legal conflict, which is already taking place,” he said.
According to him, Poland cannot directly terminate the contract for the provision of vaccinations because the deal’s parties are the European Commission and the producers.
The deal for vaccine deliveries to Poland with one manufacturer alone was valued more than 6 billion zlotys ($1.4 billion), with more than 2 billion zlotys for supply in 2022.
Pfizer says it reached an agreement with the EU Commission to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to EU member states.
“Our discussions with Governments and the details of vaccine deliveries are confidential,” it added.
BioNTech, a Pfizer partner, only stated that Pfizer was responsible for the business connection with Poland.
Poland, which has a population of almost 38 million people, has reported 5,983,864 coronavirus infections and 115,809 deaths.
At a press conference on Tuesday, European Commission spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker said that member states were bound by contractual duties, but that he recognised Poland’s “tough position.”
“We continue to facilitate discussion between the Polish government and the company in order to find a pragmatic solution to this specific situation the country is confronted with,” he said.
In Poland, 59 per cent of the population has received two doses of the vaccine, with another 31 per cent receiving a booster shot. This is far lower than the EU averages of 72.5 per cent and roughly 53 per cent.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)