Citing Ukraine’s war health minister Adam Niedzielski in a recent interview said that Poland will be cancelling COVID vaccines contracts with Pfizer and other companies.
Poland has unilaterally backed out of its contract to buy the BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, claiming oversupply and financial difficulties brought on by the flood of millions of migrants fleeing the Ukraine conflict, according to Health Minister Adam Niedzielski.
Niedzielski told TVN24 that the Warsaw administration had notified the European Commission and vaccine providers late last week that it was activating a force majeure clause in the procurement contract and would refuse to pay for or accept delivery of any additional doses.
The improving pandemic situation, according to Niedzielski, meant that vaccinations were no longer required. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian refugee crisis had put a strain on the government’s budget.
The government attempted to find a compromise by asking for deliveries to be staggered over a 10-year period, but “we encountered a complete lack of flexibility on the part of the producers,” he said.
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Niedzielski acknowledged that the action has put the government in legal dispute with Pfizer, which, in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, is the EU’s principal supplier of coronavirus vaccines. The minister stated that talks with other companies will begin soon, and that he hopes they will be more flexible.
On behalf of EU member countries, the Commission negotiated supply agreements with major vaccine manufacturers and signed joint procurement contracts with Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, among others.
“Member states are bound by contractual obligations,” said Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker, “but the Commission understands the difficult position Poland is in.” He went on to say that EU officials would seek to ease conversations and find a “pragmatic solution.”
BioNTech and Pfizer both declined to comment, stating only that they had reached an agreement with the European Commission to distribute its COVID-19 vaccine to EU member states.
Last month, Poland was one of 11 nations that urged the European Commission to establish an EU fund to help Ukrainians escaping the Russian invasion with medical bills. Poland has taken in the largest number of Ukrainian refugees of any EU member country, with approximately 3 million. Poland has received praises across the EU for its support for its neighbour Ukraine, but it hasn’t been enough to release EU funds held back due to rule-of-law concerns.