Poland still prefers EU-approved vaccines says health minister

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

The Polish health minister has poured cold water over speculation that Poland might buy Covid-19 vaccines from Russia or China.

Rumours have circulated that the Central-European country was considering purchasing vaccines from outside the EU owing to shortages and delays.

"There has been speculation about buying Chinese or Russian vaccines, but our set policy is that only tested products are allowed on the Polish market,” said Adam Niedzielski. “Patient safety is the top priority here."

He added that there were currently no possibilities to approve Chinese and Russian vaccines for the EU market. "We have to base things on evidence, not intuitions and premonitions," Niedzielski said.

Poland currently uses three EU-approved vaccines: the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Despite the disruption to vaccine supplies Niedzielski said no decision had been made on whether to delay the administering of second doses, despite Poland's Medical Council recommending the move.

On Sunday a government official had said that the time between the first and second injection of two-phase vaccines may be prolonged. Under the new schedule the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be administered 12 weeks after the first, and in the case of the Pfizer vaccine the gap would be 42 days.

Niedzielski also said that no decision had been made on single vaccinations for those who had already had Covid-19. Single inoculations for people who have recovered from the virus have also been recommended by the Medical Council.

At the same press conference Niedzielski said lockdown restrictions will be tightened in the coastal Pomorskie province after a surge in Covid infections.

He also announced that remote learning for grades 1-3 would be re-introduced from March 13 to 20, and that activities of shopping malls would be limited. Cinemas, hotels and swimming pools will be closed.

Similar restrictions are now in place in the Warminsko-Mazurskie region, which has been the province most severely hit by the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and they will be extended by a week.

Niedzielski said Pomorskie and Warminsko-Mazurskie are the most Covid-affected regions in Poland, adding that the spike in infections in both provinces was caused by new strains of the virus. He said that in other regions the current restrictions will be extended until March 28, and any further decisions on regulations in individual provinces will be made on a weekly basis.

Niedzielski said that if infections peak before Easter, restrictions could be considerably loosened, including the reopening of economic sectors which are currently closed.

Daily infections, the minister warned, could pass the 18,000 mark next week.