Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said diplomatic efforts by countries to obtain enough doses of a coronavirus vaccine from various drug makers for their own needs had turned into something akin to hijacking.
Plenković said the EU member states could file a joint lawsuit against vaccine manufactures if they fail to comply with the terms of their contracts. His remarks came as Brussels warned AstraZeneca on Monday that it must meet its contractual obligations to supply its vaccine to the EU. The company which worked with Oxford University to develop its coronavirus vaccine told the European Commission on Friday there would be delivery delays in the first quarter of this year.
“I said that vaccine diplomacy would be the main priority, but now it has turned into vaccine hijacking,” he said, adding that some countries appeared to be paying more per dose than the EU had paid under its contracts.
“What is happening is outside of what was agreed and we will insist on adhering to the contract,” he said.
Croatia is not considering approaching other manufacturers to obtain the vaccine at this time, Pleković said. Hungary recently announced it would buy two million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine. Plenković said the EU had agreed member states would only approach drug makers jointly.
“Once it starts, then there can be no joint agreement. A joint agreement must ensure that by summer we have covered all of our most vulnerable populations. That is what is most important,” he said.
Italy has threatened to sue Pfizer for delays in vaccine delivery and Plenković believes this is something the EU may take up jointly.
“The party to that agreement is the EU, they signed instead of us. One option is to use all the means at our disposal to ensure all of the contractual obligations are met,” he said.
Asked whether the European Union would try to renegotiate with producers and offer them a higher price, like some countries have done, he said he did not see the logic in such a move.
“If you have a contract and you are paying a substantial sum, I don’t see the logic in offering to pay more while the party that took the contract is not meeting its terms. They should be paying a penalty to us, not the other way around,” Plenković said.