Poland to Pfizer: Yeah, That Vax Contract We Signed? We’re Not Going to Honor It

Poland last week notified drug-company Pfizer that the country will not honor its contract to purchase more vaccine doses, Reuters reports. Hoo boy. This one’s going to court, folks.


The contract in question—worth about $1.4 billion—is not directly between Pfizer and Poland; it is between the European Commission and vaccine manufacturers. Pfizer is the biggest supplier to Poland, however, so the result is the same: Poland is not interested in paying for or receiving any more doses.

From Healthworld:

“At the end of last week, we used the force majeure clause and informed both the European Commission and the main vaccine producer that we are refusing to take these vaccines at the moment and we are also refusing to pay,” Polish health minister Adam Niedzielski told private broadcaster TVN24.

The company cited the refugee crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well an over-supply of the vaccine due to low vax rates in the country. Politico reports that Poland’s attempts at negotiations were met with the proverbial cold shoulder:

Niedzielski explained that the improving pandemic situation meant that there was less need for vaccines. The Ukrainian refugee crisis, meanwhile, had stretched the public finances. He added that the government had tried to reach a compromise, asking for deliveries to be staggered over the course of 10 years, but “we encountered a complete lack of flexibility on the part of the producers.”


I love that phrase, “We encountered a complete lack of flexibility on the part of the producers.” Meaning, Pfizer said, “Take a hike, Poland! We’ve got shareholders to answer to.” (You can see their point: Moderna stock is down 35 percent for the year, Pfizer almost 12 percent.)

“It’s a major financial burden,” Niedzielski lamented. “Poland is facing serious financial strains related to the influx of refugees.”

Covid, Vaccine, Pfizer
AP Photo/LM Otero

Where does it go from here?

One, expect Pfizer to fight back. I can’t imagine them casually walking away from a $1.4 billion payday; that’s not the Pfizer we know and love. “Indeed, the consequence of this will be a legal conflict, which is already taking place,” Niedzielski admitted. It could be epic—a massive drug company facing off with the European Union. WWE fans, let’s get ready to rummmmmble!

Two, this could be the start of something bigger. In many countries, there’s already an oversupply of the vaccines. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a February interview with Yahoo! Finance:

For a while there was a supply constraint to a world where there’s too many vaccines today. I don’t if you saw yesterday, the Africa CDC announced that they were taking no more donations in Q1 or Q2 this year, maybe in Q3 and Q4, because we have too many vaccines.

He explained that the oversupply was the result of distribution problems, not over-production:

We had two years to get prepared for the last mile delivery, getting enough health care workers trained, fridges, and so on so vaccine could be available in low-income countries when they would be available. And now we are seeing this big oversupply of vaccines, including, for example, in the case of Moderna. But then it’s the same for other companies.


What other countries might walk away from their contracts? With the waning effects of the boosters, and even Fauci admitting we’re almost past the “full-blown” pandemic phase of the coronavirus, and vast stockpiles of vax doses piling up in some places, one can only wonder which purchasers will develop buyer’s remorse.

Although it’s Pfizer who’s taking the hit in this particular story, Moderna’s already got a plan to keep the profits flowing. Said CEO Bancel:

So as we made pretty clear on the call this morning with a lot of scientific data, we believe the waning immunity of the antibody provided by the vaccines or natural infection will drive the need for a fourth dose in the fall.

A fourth dose, sure. How about a fifth for good measure?


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