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Poland reneges on coronavirus vaccine contracts – POLITICO

Poland has unilaterally withdrawn from contractual commitments to purchase the BioNTech/Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Tuesday, citing oversupply and financial strains caused by the influx of millions of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on comprehensive news channel TVN24, Niedzielski said the government in Warsaw informed the European Commission and vaccine suppliers late last week that it was invoking a force majeure clause of the purchase contract and refuses both to pay or to take delivery of additional doses.

Niedzielski explained that the improving pandemic situation meant there was less need for vaccines. The Ukrainian refugee crisis, meanwhile, had put a strain on public finances.

He added that the government had tried to find a compromise by asking for deliveries to be spread over 10 years, but “we encountered a complete lack of flexibility on the part of the producers”.

Niedzielski admitted the move put the government in a legal row with Pfizer – which is the EU’s main supplier of coronavirus vaccines in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech. Talks with other companies will start soon, the minister said, adding that he hoped they would show more flexibility.

The Commission has negotiated supply agreements with major vaccine manufacturers on behalf of EU member countries and has also signed joint supply contracts with Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca, among others.

“Member states are bound by contractual obligations, but the Commission understands the difficult position Poland finds itself in,” said Commission spokesperson Stefan De Keersmaecker. He added that EU authorities would try to facilitate discussions and find a “pragmatic solution”.

BioNTech and Pfizer declined to comment, saying only that they had an agreement with the European Commission to supply its COVID-19 vaccine to EU member states.

Last month, Poland was one of 11 countries that asked the Commission to create a European fund to compensate for the health costs of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion. Poland has received by far the largest number of Ukrainians of any EU member country, hosting almost 3 million refugees. Poland’s support for neighbor Ukraine won it plaudits across the bloc, but it was not enough to unlock EU funds withheld for rule of law reasons.

This story has been updated with comments from the European Commission.