Poland pushes for greater flexibility in Covid vaccine contracts

Grzegorz Michałowski/PAP

Poland will push for greater flexibility in Covid vaccine contracts in EU talks, a health ministry spokesman has told PAP.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski is due to fly to Luxembourg on Monday for talks with his EU peers.

The Polish government has already told the European Commission and the pharma company Pfizer that due to exceptional circumstances related to accepting millions of Ukrainian refugees, Poland would refuse to accept and pay for further doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

In May, Niedzielski said after a videoconference with EU health ministers that over a dozen countries had, like Poland, expressed a desire for greater flexibility to be introduced to vaccine contracts concluded by the EC.

"It's not exactly that we're breaking the contract," Wojciech Andrusiewicz, the health ministry spokesperson, told PAP on Monday. "We pointed out to the Pfizer company, but also to Moderna, that we are not in a position to carry out those orders, and that we request further doses not to be delivered. We strove as Poland, (Prime Minister - PAP) Mateusz Morawiecki strove, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski strove, for contract flexibility.

"One the one hand we still have about 70 million vaccines against Covid-19 to put onto the Polish market (but) what is important is that those vaccines have not yet been produced," Andrusiewicz explained. "On the other hand, we have a situation in which this epidemic... has subsided, we have it at a low level at the moment. So logically, interest in the vaccine has dropped, not only in Poland but also in the whole European Union. And we also have the war in Ukraine and the exodus of Ukrainian society. Over 3 million people have crossed the Polish border whom Poland must care for. It's not just medical care, it's social care, all sorts of benefits."

Andrusiewicz went on to say Poland had told the EC and drug producers that due to this situation it could not honour its side of the contracts, but did not wish to terminate them.

"We wanted to make them flexible, to spread the deliveries over several years or, instead of the vaccine, Pfizer could propose other drugs.

"Let's remember it's a pharmaceutical company that provides the Polish market with various other vaccines," he said. "Unfortunately we rather hit a wall on the other side. Now we're taking steps on the EU forum within the framework of which we want to expand the group of countries interested in making contracts more flexible."