The commission announced that the two sides agreed that Pfizer would stagger deliveries over the next four years, until 2027, and reduce the total amount of doses from the 450 million that were to be delivered this year. However, the Commission did not disclose the new total in its announcement. Asked about the revised figure for deliveries, Commission health spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker referred POLITICO to EU member states for a response.
“Vaccination strategies or vaccination programs are designed and implemented by the member states,” said de Keersmaecker.
The commission had previously obtained a number of concessions from Pfizer, but they always stopped at a reduction in doses.
The financial terms of the deal are also not public, but the Commission said the bloc retained the option to buy the remaining 450 million initial doses and was paying extra for that option, which ministers had previously criticized as a “cancellation fee”. Practically, this increases the price per dose, although the total price would be lower.
Discussions have been going on for over a year
The contract in question was signed in May 2021 and was initially for 900 million doses of the vaccine that was developed together with the German company BioNTech, with the possibility of exercising an option for another 900 million doses. In the end, a total of 1.1 billion doses of the mRNA vaccine were contracted by the EU bloc, worth €21.5 billion, according to vaccine prices reported by the Financial Times.
450 million doses were to be delivered in 2023, although deliveries were halted during negotiations. As early as last April, Poland announced that it was no longer accepting any vaccine deliveries, complaining of an oversupply.
In all, nine other countries in the region have joined Poland in pushing for a renegotiation, complaining they are stuck buying doses they no longer need at a time of economic hardship caused by the energy shock and while they had to spend money to deal with the refugees resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
In an unusual move, Poland went so far as to send a letter to Pfizer shareholders outlining its reasons for wanting to renegotiate the contract, in an attempt to put pressure on the US drugmaker.
Ursula von der Leyen, targeted
Also, this scandal drew attention to the personal role of the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in obtaining the initial contract. According to the New York Times, the EU chief executive exceptionally negotiated with Pfizer’s chief executive, Albert Bourla, directly via text messages. But the content of the messages was shrouded in secrecy, the Commission even refusing to confirm their existence.
The protracted negotiations raise the question of why such a large contract was signed, with deliveries so far into the future in 2022 and 2023, when pandemic conditions could have changed, without a clause to negotiate lower doses .
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