Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, Hungary call for re-negotiation with Pfizer-BioNTech on Covid-19 vaccines

Four European Union countries – Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary – issued a joint call to the European Commission on March 14 for re-negotiation of terms with Pfizer-BioNTech on doses of vaccines against Covid-19.

The joint call, issued as EU health ministers met in Brussels, said that the European Commission should seek opportunities to further negotiate with Pfizer, in particular on non-delivery payments, reducing the number of contracted doses, or take the initiative itself and buying surplus vaccines from EU member states to donate to regions in need. 

“Bulgaria’s needs for vaccines against Covid-19 are fully met, the storage possibilities are exhausted, there is no need for new supplies,” caretaker Health Minister Assen Medzhidiev told a working lunch where the health ministers discussed the matter, according to a statement issued by Bulgaria’s Health Ministry.

“In the current, already escalated situation, there are only two reasonable solutions: termination of the contract with Pfizer-BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH or a drastic reduction of the quantities based on real needs, without financial compensation at the expense of the states,” Medzhidiev said.

The statement said that Medzhidiev told the meeting that Bulgaria’s legitimate expectation in the current escalated situation is for the European Commission to show solidarity with the member states, which have repeatedly signalled the need for an urgent decision to reduce the “excessive” quantities that were agreed on in 2021 under other conditions of a pandemic situation and not based on real needs.

Moreover, Bulgaria did not participate in the negotiations, but only had the option to join or not to join the agreement, which was agreed between the European Commission, Pfizer-BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH and the Joint Negotiating Team which included several other member states, the statement said.

Medzhidiev called on the European Commission, in the negotiations with the companies, to insist on solidarity on their part as well, insofar as the initial production of vaccines against Covid-19 is financially supported by the budget of the European Union and above all by the national budgets of the member states.

“It is time for companies to prove their responsibility to society by ending the production of vaccines for which objectively there is no demand,” he said.

“We believe that Bulgaria, as a correct partner, has always shown solidarity with all EU member states, but now we need help. In the event that neither of the two proposed solutions is agreed upon, Bulgaria expects the EC to buy the excess vaccines,” Medzhidiev said.

He said that the pressure on governments to purchase vaccines for Covid-19 in the coming years would cause tension among the public, as it was a matter of quantities that would not be used and would therefore be subject to scrapping from the moment of delivery, due to lack of interest in vaccination. 

“The topic concerns the responsible and rational use of a public funds, but also the overall perception of society about the character of medicinal products as a medicinal product, not as a commercial product.”

Medzhidiev said that there was no reason to continue the current general approach and in the future the supply of medicinal products should be organised independently by each member state.

 “We do not object to common tenders being organised for the member states in need, but we are against generating pressure for the participation of all member states related to an unjustified budgetary burden.

“The conclusion of contracts for medicinal products should be guided by the existence of needs and real demand. We are anxiously watching an approach where these procedures depart from the traditional logic of supply and demand, but also from established rules, and are instead viewed as insurance events,” Medzhidiev said.

(Photo: EC Audiovisual Service/Savo Prelevic)

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