EU and Pfizer renegotiate controversial vaccine contract – POLITICO
The European Commission and US pharma giant Pfizer have renegotiated a massive contract for COVID-19 vaccine doses that the EU struck at the height of the pandemic.
The Commission announced that the two parties had agreed that Pfizer would stagger deliveries over the next four years, until 2027, and reduce the total number 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 by POLITICO about the revised delivery figure, Health Commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker referred POLITICO to EU member countries for an answer.
“Vaccination strategies or vaccination programs are designed and implemented by member states,” said de Keersmaecker.
The Commission had already obtained several concessions from Pfizer, but these always stopped below a reduction in doses.
The financial terms of the deal are also not public, but the Commission said the bloc retains the option to buy the remainder of the initial 450 million doses and is paying extra for the option – which ministers have previously criticized it as a “cancellation fee.” In practice, this increases the price per dose, even though the overall price would be lower.
The talks have dragged on for more than a year and have been marred by acrimony – at least from a group of central and eastern European countries that have fiercely opposed the terms of the deal they struck.
The contract in question was signed in May 2021 and was originally for 900 million doses of the vaccine jointly developed with German BioNTech, with the possibility of exercising an option for an additional 900 million doses. Eventually, a total of 1.1 billion mRNA vaccines were contracted by the bloc – worth 21.5 billion euros according to vaccine prices reported by the Financial Times.
450 million doses were to be supplied in 2023, although deliveries were suspended while negotiations were ongoing. Already in April last year, Poland announced that it was no longer accepting vaccine deliveries, complaining of oversupply.
A total of nine other countries in the region joined Poland in pushing for a renegotiation, complaining that they were being forced to buy doses they no longer needed, at a time of economic hardship. caused by the energy shock, and while having to spend money to care for refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The group of countries willing to renegotiate the contract also have lower vaccination rates than their western European counterparts.
In an unusual move, Poland went so far as to send a letter to Pfizer shareholders outlining its reasons for wanting a renegotiated deal, as it sought to pressure the US drugmaker.
The dust also drew attention to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s personal role in securing the initial contract. According to the New York Times, the head of the European executive exceptionally negotiated directly with the general manager of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, by SMS. But the content of the messages has been shrouded in secrecy, with the Commission even refusing to confirm their existence.
The long-standing negotiations raise the question of why such a large contract was concluded with deliveries so far into the future – in 2022 and 2023 – when the conditions of the pandemic could have changed, without a downward negotiation clause. doses.