A group of 10 Eastern European countries have petitioned the European Union to reopen contracts for COVID-19 vaccines, Politico reports.
The contracts should be terminated “if they are no longer needed from a health and epidemiological perspective,” the letter reasons. It also petitions that the number of doses ordered be reduced in accord with lower demand.
Poland led the initiative, according to Politico, and Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia signed the letter.
The Commission has secured up to 4.2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, nearly ten times the population of the EU. As of February, 1.3 billion had been delivered, while vaccination campaigns have slowed in Europe. Many doses have been donated to Africa, but the logistics of distributing and administering them while racing against approaching expiration dates led to huge amounts of wasted vaccines, despite good intentions.
This is not the first time these countries have raised concerns that the large amounts of vaccines purchased by the EU Commission are “a waste of public resources that cannot be reasonably explained to the public,” as stated in the letter.
“Despite signs that the pandemic is subsiding and that satisfactory vaccination levels across the EU have been achieved, the contracts with vaccine manufacturers provide for supply of quantities of vaccines that significantly exceed the Member States’ needs and capacity to absorb them,” the letter also reads.
The letter set out the potential problem of vaccines expiring before being used, even if donated to other countries.
The Commission had renegotiated the timing of delivery of vaccines several weeks ago, but the petition states that this is not enough to prevent a waste of money and vaccines.
Additionally, the letter requested that vaccines paid for by the EU be effective against the strains currently circulating, and suggested that the EU’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority buy unused vaccines to allow for donations to the rest of the world in a more coordinated way through a joint stockpile.
The petition was delivered on Friday, June 3rd.
COVID-19 vaccines to better protect against newer strains are currently being developed and expected to be ready for a fall booster campaign.