EU and Pfizer renegotiate controversial vaccine contract

The European Commission and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer have renegotiated a massive contract for doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, which the European Union entered into at the height of the pandemic.

commission announced That the two sides had agreed that Pfizer would deliver over the course of the next four years, through 2027, and reduce the total amount of doses to be delivered this year to less than 450 million. However, the commission did not reveal the new total in its announcement. Asked by POLITICO about the revised distribution figure, Commission health spokesman Stefan de Keersmaeker referred POLITICO to EU member states for a response.

“Vaccine strategies or vaccine programs are designed and implemented by the member states,” de Keersmaeker said.

The commission had previously obtained several concessions from Pfizer, but these always fell short of dose reductions.

The financial terms of the deal are also not public, but the commission said the bloc retained the possibility of buying the remainder of the original 450 million doses, and that it was paying extra for the option – something that ministers have first criticized as “Cancellation Fee”. In practice, this increases the cost per dose, although the overall cost will be lower.

pulled in for talks over a year And has been marked by bitterness – not least from part of a group of Central and Eastern European countries that have bitterly opposed the terms of the pact they entered into.

pending contract Signed in May 2021 and was originally for 900 million doses of the vaccine that was developed jointly with Germany’s BioNTech, with the possibility of using the option for another 900 million doses. Eventually, a total of 1.1 billion shots of the mRNA vaccine were contracted by the bloc – worth €21.5 billion. vaccine prices Reported by the Financial Times.

450 million doses were to be supplied in 2023, although deliveries were put on hold while talks continued. Already in April last year, Poland announced that it was not accepting further deliveries of vaccines, complaining of oversupply.

total of nine other countries The region became involved in lobbying for re-negotiation in Poland, complaining that they were stuck buying supplies during a time of economic hardship caused by the energy shock, and spending money to care for refugees from the Russian , which they no longer needed. invasion of Ukraine. The group of countries willing to renegotiate the contract also has lower vaccination rates than their Western European counterparts.

In an unusual move, Poland went so far as to send a letter to Pfizer shareholders where it explained its reasons for wanting to renegotiate as it sought to put pressure on the US drugmaker.

Dustup has also focused on the personal role of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in securing the original contract. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Dustup has also focused on the personal role of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in securing the original contract. According to the New York Times, the EU executive’s boss specifically communicated directly over text messages with Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla. but the content of the messages has been shrouded in secrecyThe commission also refused to confirm their existence.

The long-standing talks raise the question of why such a large contract was entered into with deliveries in the future – 2022 and 2023 – when the pandemic situation could have changed, without the need to reduce doses.