April 14. 2024. 6:59

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Bulgaria leads group opposing Pfizer COVID vaccine supply conditions


Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary have demanded that the European Commission renegotiate the conditions for the supply of COVID vaccines manufactured by Pfizer. The health ministers of the four countries tabled a joint request during an EU Council meeting on Tuesday (14 March).

According to the four ministers, the contract must take into account the needs, specificities and budget possibilities of all EU countries. They said they were deeply concerned by a proposed new addition to Pfizer’s vaccine supply agreement.

On 8 March, Health Minister Asen Medzhidiev announced that Bulgaria had received support for its initiative from Poland and six other member states, although ultimately only three other countries signed the common statement.

Reportedly, the European Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides was notified already in February about the Bulgarian position.

The four ministers’ appeal to the commission is for a new, fairer deal in the public interest.

“The Commission should seek opportunities to further negotiate with Pfizer, in particular on non-delivery payments, reducing the number of contracted doses, or to take the initiative itself and buy surplus vaccines from member states to donate to regions in need”, the four ministers stated.

They also appealed to Pfizer to act responsively.

“We call on Pfizer to maintain confidence in the vaccination process, to assume its responsibility towards EU citizens and Member states, and act in good faith towards a solution, fair to all: in the name of the common good, not only business interest.”

A week ago, the Bulgarian caretaker government decided that Health Minister Asen Medzhidiev would defend in Brussels a position to terminate the contract for the supply of COVID vaccines with Pfizer.

The government said the contract should accommodate the needs of individual countries, define specific quantities with a specific expiration date, and payment after delivery.

More than 1.3 million doses of the delivered quantities of vaccines of Pfizer Inc./BioNTech Manufacturing GmbH have already been disposed of in Bulgaria due to their expiration date, and slightly more than 2.3 million doses of all types of vaccines have been destroyed so far. This year, nearly 2.8 million doses are to be disposed of.

In addition to these, more than 650,000 doses will expire in January/February 2024 and it is already clear at this stage that these quantities will also be destroyed.

Booster doses will be delivered in 2023 but – because in Bulgaria, the vaccination coverage is only 30% – it was probably not justified to order booster doses for the entire population.

Journalists asked the authorities why Bulgaria could not donate the vaccines it does not need to developing countries, but the government explained that the contracts did not allow that.