Pfizer and European Commission officials have waded through months of pushback over a large, controversial COVID-19 vaccine supply deal in Europe. They've now reportedly hashed out a new supply agreement—but there's a catch.
Under the terms of a revised deal, Pfizer agreed to extend the European supply contract from 2023 out to 2026, the Financial Times reports based on two people with knowledge of the talks. Given the drop in vaccine use, Pfizer also agreed to cut the total number of doses to be supplied by 40%, but the company is also pushing for payment for the doses that will never be manufactured, according to the publication.
Pfizer and the European Commission (EC) inked their large vaccine supply deal in May 2021. The agreement covered 900 million vaccine doses for delivery split between 2022 and 2023, with the option for the EC to order another 900 million doses in the future. In December 2021, European officials exercised part of the option and agreed to buy another 200 million doses.
Since then, many European countries found they had too many doses as the pandemic eased. Officials have spent many months deliberating on how best to tackle the vaccine glut.
The size of the deal—and nature of the negotiations that led to it—prompted an investigation by Europe's Court of Auditors. In September 2022, the European court of auditors issued a public statement noting that it wasn't able to get the documents it requested from European Commission officials. Shortly after that, Europe's Public Prosecutor's Office issued a statement saying that it was investigating the bloc's COVID-19 vaccine purchasing.
Meanwhile, after the latest amendment, a group of European countries remains unsatisfied. In a statement posted by Euractiv, Bulgaria, Poland, Lithuania and Hungary shared "deep concern" over the amendment. The group of four countries are asking the EC to "negotiate a new, fairer deal." They also called on Pfizer to "act in good faith" toward a solution in the "common good."
The proposals "do not present a final and fair solution to the problems of COVID-19 vaccine surplus and do not meet the needs of the healthcare systems, the needs of citizens and the financial interests of the member states," the countries argued. Last summer, Poland said it wouldn't participate in Europe's COVID-19 vaccine supply deal.
Austria separately also expressed concern with the deal, FT reports.
Among vaccine makers, Pfizer isn't alone in facing calls to reduce deliveries or adjust supply agreements. Last month, The New York Times reported that Novavax refused to refund $700 million in prepayments to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for doses it never delivered. Gavi was engaged in purchasing doses for low- and middle-income countries during the pandemic, but many of the doses it agreed to buy were never needed.
As of early February, Gavi had inked settlements with Moderna and several other vaccine makers but lost around $700 million in prepayments, NYT reported. And the global vaccine group is also battling with J&J over that company's supply agreement.