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23 Nov, 2023 22:45

Pfizer sues Poland over Covid-19 vaccine

The US drugmaker has escalated a dispute with Warsaw over unwanted doses
Pfizer sues Poland over Covid-19 vaccine

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has escalated its feud with Poland over excess Covid-19 vaccine doses that were ordered under a huge contract with the European Union. The company is suing the country over what it claims is an unfulfilled contract for Covid-19 vaccines.

Warsaw was locked into buying tens of millions of doses under a controversial contract the European Commission had signed with Pfizer in 2021 on behalf of EU nations. Pfizer is demanding 6 billion zloty ($1.5 billion) in compensation for 60 million doses that Poland’s government declined, after it stopped taking delivery of the jabs in April 2022. 

The entire bloc wound up ordering 1.1 billion doses under the contract, saddling EU states with a vaccine glut as the Covid-19 pandemic waned. The EU prosecutor’s office has already announced an investigation into the procurement process amid allegations of corruption and secret backroom deals while Polish Health Minister Katarzyna Sojka has warned other EU states could be next to face prosecution.

Warsaw has questioned the controversial role of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in the Pfizer deal after it emerged she had for weeks privately communicated with the company's CEO Albert Bourla during the contract negotiations. However, the European Commission claimed last year that her text messages with the big pharma boss on deals worth multiple billions of dollars executive could not be found.

The first hearing in Pfizer’s lawsuit is scheduled to take place in Brussels on December 6. Earlier this year the pharma giant offered to give the EU more time to complete its minimum vaccine purchases under the binding contract, but insisted that the bloc must pay in full for the contractually specified number of doses. Poland since refused to sign a revised EU agreement with the drugmaker.

Sojka told broadcaster TVN24 on Wednesday that there is some hope of resolving the Pfizer lawsuit “in a positive way.”

A Pfizer company spokesman told Politico however that the company decided to go forward with the lawsuit “following a prolonged contract breach and a period of discussions in good faith between the parties,” .

Millions of Poles refused to receive Covid-19 vaccines, and Warsaw halted deliveries of the jabs as an influx of Ukrainian refugees in early 2022 strained the government’s finances.