Poland won't accept and pay for more Covid vaccines

Darek Delmanowicz/PAP

Poland has told the European Commission and the pharmaceutical firm Pfizer that it will refuse to accept and pay for more Covid vaccines, the Polish health minister said on Tuesday.

The country already has 25 million Covid-19 vaccines in storage and a further 67-70 million doses on order, according to the private news channel TVN24.

In an interview for the channel, Adam Niedzielski said the government would take advantage of a force majeure clause in the contract that free it from liabilities and obligation in exceptional circumstances.

Niedzielski also said that Poland's contract with only one company amounts to over PLN 2 billion (EUR 0.43 bln) this year and PLN 6 billion (EUR 1.29 bln) next year.Przemysław Piątkowski/PAP

"We asked both the European Commission and the main vaccine producing companies... to spread these deliveries over 10 years and - most importantly - to pay when we receive vaccines," he said.

Niedzielski added that negotiations regarding the purchase of vaccines were conducted by the European Commission.

"Unfortunately, here we faced complete inflexibility on the part of the producers,” he said. “There was no way that we could seriously change the terms of this contract, and this contract was signed in a crisis situation."

The country already has 25 million Covid-19 vaccines in storage and a further 67-70 million doses on order, according to the private news channel TVN24.Adam Warżawa/PAP

Asked whether this meant the vaccines would still come to Poland, Niedzielski said: "At the end of last week, we took advantage of the force majeure clause and informed both the European Commission and the main vaccine manufacturer that we are refusing to receive these vaccines, and that we are also refusing to make payments. Indeed, the consequence of this will be a legal conflict that is already taking place."

When asked if this meant the termination of the contract by Poland, he said that as the contract is between the EC and the vaccine producers - "there is no such explicit termination (by Poland - PAP)... this is a sort of a declaration about our further line of conduct."

Niedzielski also said that Poland's contract with only one company amounts to over PLN 2 billion (EUR 0.43 bln) this year and PLN 6 billion (EUR 1.29 bln) next year.

He also said that Poland, along with 10 other EU countries had suggested that the EC should ease regulations on Covid-19 vaccination contracts in order to make it possible for them to spend more funds on healthcare for refugees.

The country already has 25 million Covid-19 vaccines in storage and a further 67-70 million doses on order, according to the private news channel TVN24.AA/ABACA/PAP

"We, in particular, and I am talking about Poland here, currently have financial pressures related to the influx of refugees, so we also feel that, on the EU scale, we have a certain right to expect special instruments that will give us.... greater flexibility in the contracts," Niedzielski said.

He added that, to date, meetings with Pfizer, a drug manufacturer, and the EC "have so far brought no results."

Later on Tuesday, the European Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker told a press conference that the EC had been informed by Poland about its decision not to take or pay for more doses of Covid vaccines under the European Union's supply contract.

He said that member states are bound by contractual obligations, but the European Commission understands the difficult situation Poland is in and will try to facilitate talks between the Polish authorities and the vaccine maker to find a pragmatic solution.