EU states are increasing pressure on Pfizer to cut unneeded COVID vaccine supplies

Doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for children are made at a pediatrician’s office in Maintal near Frankfurt, Germany, December 15, 2021. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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BRUSSELS, June 14 (Reuters) – European Union governments are stepping up pressure on Pfizer (PFE.N) and other COVID-19 vaccine makers to renegotiate contracts, warning EU officials that millions of shots could result that are no longer needed could be wasted and a document.

During the most acute phase of the pandemic, the European Commission and EU governments agreed to buy huge quantities of vaccines, mostly from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE), over fears of insufficient supplies.

But as the pandemic wanes in Europe, and in the face of a significant slowdown in vaccinations, many countries are now pushing for contract adjustments to reduce supplies and consequently cut their vaccine spending.

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The matter will be discussed at a meeting of EU health ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, French Minister Brigitte Bourgignon told reporters.

Poland, the leading country in this attempt to overhaul contracts, has more than 30 million COVID vaccines in stock and would need to buy another 70 million under existing agreements, a Polish diplomat told Reuters, urging changes to avoid waste.

Poland has a population of around 38 million, of which around 60% are fully vaccinated, not including booster shots – versus over 70% in the EU.

In a letter sent to the Commission in early June and seen by Reuters, Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, along with his counterparts from Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, called for a “reduction in the amount” of vaccines to be ordered.

They said the contracts were agreed when it was impossible to predict how the pandemic would develop and are now to be changed if the situation improves.

An EU official said in May, on condition of anonymity, that EU countries are likely to lose any legal battle against suppliers because contracts cannot be changed unilaterally. Continue reading

There is no litigation at this time, officials said.

Pfizer and Moderna (MRNA.O), another leading supplier of COVID vaccines to the EU, have agreed to delay some shipments.

However, in their joint letter, the ministers said, referring only to the adjustments agreed with Pfizer, that these “are an insufficient solution and only delay the problem”.

A Pfizer spokesman declined to comment on the letter but reiterated contract changes already made to adjust delivery schedules.

“We are witnessing an excessive strain on government budgets coupled with the supply of unnecessary quantities of vaccines,” the joint letter said, adding, “There is a high probability that doses shipped to the European Union will be discarded.”

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Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Editing by Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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