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EU governments pressure manufacturers to renegotiate contracts for COVID-19 vaccines

EU officials have warned that millions of vaccine doses could be wasted due to over-supply

COVID-19 vaccine

Pressure on COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers is being mounted as European Union (EU) governments are in a push to renegotiate contracts, with a caution issued by EU officials that millions of vaccine doses could be wasted.

When vaccines became available earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, countries vied for supply contracts. However, as the need for vaccines begins to slow in Europe, some countries want to amend their contracts to reduce spending and to prevent receiving more vaccines than are needed.

During the most acute phase of the pandemic, the European Commission and EU governments agreed to buy huge volumes of vaccines, mostly from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, amid fears of insufficient supplies.

But amid a marked slowdown in vaccinations in Europe, many countries want to amend their contracts to reduce supplies and consequently cut their spending on vaccines.

Poland has over 30 million COVID-19 vaccines in stock and, under existing agreements, would need to buy another 70 million, according to a Polish diplomat in a discussion with Reuters.

Detailed in a letter to the European Commission in June 2022, Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, with support from Croatia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania and Romania, made calls for a "reduction” to the number of vaccines being ordered.

As contracts were finalised at a time when it was impossible to predict the direction of the pandemic, it is felt that these contracts should be changed as the situation gradually improves.

The letter stated that "we witness excessive burden on state budgets, combined with delivery of unnecessary amounts of vaccines" and then cautioned "there is a high probability that doses supplied to the European Union might end up being disposed of".

At a recent public meeting of EU health ministers, Slovakia vocalised its support for the letter, while other countries, including Malta and Cyprus, warned that the pandemic could change again.

Leading suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, have agreed to delay some deliveries. Ministers reacted to this in the joint letter, referring to amendments agreed with Pfizer, that the company’s proposed postponement was “an insufficient solution” to the issue.

EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides advised that excess doses could be needed in future, saying that "contracts must be honoured" and that the EU "cannot unilaterally change the terms of the contracts".

Article by
Fleur Jeffries

15th June 2022

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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