Poland’s health minister informed the European Commission and Pfizer on Tuesday that it will no longer pay for or take any more COVID-19 vaccines.
This decision leads to a legal battle between the European Union and vaccine manufacturers on a mutually agreed-upon supply contract. The EU made contracts with pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna to supply vaccines to the EU member states.
According to Reuters, Pfizer supplies most of the vaccines to Poland. However, Poland has over 25 million COVID-19 vaccines currently kept in storage and around 70 million more vaccines that are already on order. The issue is that Poland has a distinctly low vaccination and booster dose rate compared to other EU nations.
With a population of 38 million, only 59% have been fully vaccinated compared to the EU’s average of 72%. Also, only 31% of the vaccinated people have gotten a booster shot compared to the EU average of 53%.
The Polish Health Minister, Adam Niedzielski, argued that as Poland already has an excessive amount of vaccines, it will not require more, nor will it pay for them. While talking with TVN24, Niedzielski also said that the Polish government has asked the European Commission and Pfizer to extend the delivery period for the vaccines to 10 years and ask for money only when Poland receives them.
However, he added that Pfizer was inflexible about the situation. It was also added that the contracts between the EU states and vaccine manufacturers were signed in a state of panic and emergency, with no one knowing just how long the pandemic would stretch out.
Niedzielski argued that Poland’s decision had caused a legal conflict. He also added that Poland could not directly impact the contract either, as it was made between the European Commission and Pfizer.
Pfizer’s vaccine supply contract to Poland is over $1.4 billion, out of which about $470 million have been paid in 2022. The European Commission’s health spokesperson Stefan de Keersmaecker added that although the contract binds the states, they understand Poland’s situation.
Around ten more EU countries have asked for these contracts to be loosened especially as the financial burden of Ukrainian refugees is added to the state’s economic problems.