The European Commission permitted Poland to renegotiate the agreement with Pfizer on the delivery of COVID-19 vaccinations. It’s an unprecedented step in the face of the EU executive’s long-standing opposition to allowing member states to change the terms of the EU-concluded arrangement.
Until recently, the Commission had been unwilling to consider the possibility of member states renegotiating contracts with vaccine makers. Because the EU negotiated the accords on behalf of all member states, only Brussels can negotiate changes.
Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski met with Pierre Delsaux, chairman of the EU Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, to propose modifying the terms of vaccine contracts (HERA). “We were informed that they (HERA) understood Poland’s position and our exceptional situation, which affects our implementation of the agreements for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccinations,” he said, according to Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.
According to the DGP, one of the reasons Poland wants to negotiate new delivery conditions is financial concerns. Until 2023, the vaccinations were paid for out of the state budget. The National Health Fund (NFZ) is now responsible for payment. NFZ lacks more than 10 billion zlotys (€2.14 billion) for this purpose. Its reserve fund cannot meet the expenses for legal reasons.
The main reason claimed by Poland for the need to renegotiate the agreement with Pfizer was the arrival of millions of refugees escaping Ukraine’s war. Poland has absorbed the most Ukrainian refugees of any EU member state, with over 10.1 million persons crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border since February 24, 2022. (most of whom have since returned to Ukraine).
Since last year, the Polish government has pushed to amend the terms of the Pfizer agreement.
In May 2022, a European Commission official informed Reuters that Poland claimed the Force Majeure clause in the contract with Pfizer, which the government “had no logic” to assert. According to the source, the war in Ukraine did not affect Poland’s immunization needs; “if anything, it now needs to vaccinate refugees.”
In April, an EU executive spokeswoman told media that while contractual duties bound member states, Brussels attempted to assist with a “pragmatic solution.” According to DGP, the shift in position and decision to allow an individual member state to deal with the producer independently is a “groundbreaking” step.
Other countries are losing their calm as interest in COVID-19 vaccinations declines, according to DGP. Estonia, Slovakia, and Czechia are among the countries having considerable vaccine reserves that want to avoid paying for additional primary delivery.
The Commission is negotiating with the vaccination makers about adapting the delivery to the needs of the member states. An EU source told DGP that it is still being determined when the parties will reach an agreement and that one reason for the delay is that the Commission is awaiting the outcome of Poland’s talks with Pfizer.