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Poland Refuses to Buy Extra Vaccines From Pfizer by Hélène de Lauzun

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Poland Refuses to Buy Extra Vaccines From Pfizer

As the COVID-19 epidemic begins to subside in earnest in several European countries, the question arises as to whether the vaccination campaign should continue.

In Poland, the campaign has not been as successful as expected. 51% of Poles have received at least two doses, compared to an average of 72.5% in other EU countries. As a result, the government has a stock of 25 million unused vaccines, while an additional 67-70 million doses have been ordered.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski therefore announced that Poland would not take and, above all, would not pay for any new deliveries of vaccine from the supplier Pfizer, despite the EU supply contract. 

“At the end of last week, we used the force majeure clause and informed both the European Commission and the main vaccine producer that we refuse to take these vaccines for the time being and that we also refuse to pay,” the health minister said on April 19th. He added in an interview with TVN24: “We have asked both the European Commission and the main vaccine companies to spread these deliveries over 10 years and, above all, to pay when we receive the vaccines.”

A legal conflict is emerging: strictly speaking, it is impossible for Poland to terminate its contracts with the vaccine producers, as these were signed by the European Commission. However, the Polish government believes that Poland is simply not a party to the contract and can therefore regain its freedom. The contract runs until the end of 2023 and is worth €1.29 billion to Poland. Poland is asking for more flexibility from the EU institutions and vaccine producers. The Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker said it “understands” Poland’s difficult position and wants to find a “pragmatic solution.” But for the time being, discussions between the European Commission and the manufacturers are at a standstill.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).