Health Minister Adam Niedzielski calls on pharma giant to come to more favorable terms in negotiations with EU.
Poland has sent a public letter to Pfizer shareholders calling on the U.S. pharma giant to renegotiate its COVID-19 vaccines contract with the EU, marking an escalation in the ongoing dispute over excess doses.
The letter, seen by POLITICO, is dated Tuesday and signed by Poland’s health minister, Adam Niedzielski. In it, the minister appeals to Pfizer’s “Corporate Social Responsibility” and calls on the company to come to more favorable terms in negotiations to lower the total amount of doses it is sending to the EU, and to spread them out over a longer time period.
Warsaw has been leading the charge in efforts to reopen the EU’s largest contract, for 1.1 billion doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The deal was signed at the height of the pandemic and locks the EU into buying nearly half a billion doses this year, even as vaccination rates have fallen off a cliff as the pandemic subsides.
As a result, millions of doses have expired unused in warehouses across the EU. A report from German public broadcaster BR24 in January put the number at 36.6 million doses in Germany, while Austria’s health minister has said previously that 17.5 million doses were unused in the country and “available for vaccination.”
The European Commission is trying to renegotiate the terms of the contract. The exact details haven’t been made public, but the proposal under discussion would see some doses canceled, but with a higher price per dose for the remaining deliveries, in practice creating a “cancellation fee.”
“Instead of showing solidarity, the company still wants to make money from funds allocated by EU Member States solely for the protection of public health,” reads the letter.
Activist shareholders have tried to pressure Pfizer in the past, with an open letter asking the company to allow a more equitable global distribution of the vaccine it developed with BioNTech. According to data from the Wall Street Journal, Pfizer’s largest shareholders include SSgA Funds Management, Vanguard Group and Wellington Management.