Poland’s health minister on Tuesday said the EU member refuses to accept or pay for additional shipments of the coronavirus vaccine as the country still has millions of unused doses.
Poland, where just half of the population of 38 million people is fully vaccinated, said its decision could lead to a tricky legal situation, as the future doses were ordered by the European Commission.
“Late last week, we invoked the hardship clause and informed at once the European Commission and the main vaccine maker (Pfizer) that we refuse to receive the doses and also refuse to make payments,” Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told the news channel TVN24.
“This situation will lead to a legal conflict — or, in fact, there already is one,” he said, adding that the deal had been signed by the Commission and the vaccine makers while Poland was not a direct party to the agreement.
He said Poland still has 25 million unused doses, while the additional doses ordered number between 67 and 70 million.
Only 51 percent of Poles are fully vaccinated, while 59 percent have received just a single dose, according to health ministry figures, which also show that the jab rate has seen a significant drop lately.
“We’re very disappointed by the attitude of the Commission and the makers,” Niedzielski added, saying Poland had tried in vain to spread out the shipments over a few years.
He also stressed the costs involved at a time when Poland is in a tight financial situation because of the influx of refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.
A spokesman for the European Commission said Tuesday it was aware of the situation.
“Member states are bound by their contractual obligations but the commission, of course, understands the difficult position that Poland is in and will continue to facilitate discussion between the Polish government and the company in order to find a pragmatic solution,” Stefan De Keersmaecker told reporters.