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Estonia counts on European Commission to reduce agreed Covid vaccine supply

A bottle of Pfizer vaccine.
A bottle of Pfizer vaccine. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia has almost 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in stock and will also receive around 1.3 million more from pharmaceutical companies under EU joint procurement agreements. Estonia therefore supports the European Commission in its ongoing negotiations with vaccine manufacturers to reduce the number of doses they agree supply.

 "It is our wish to reduce the number of outstanding doses by as much as possible in the course of these negotiations," Eveli Bauer, chief specialist at the Estonian Health Insurance Fund, told ERR.

On Monday, Euractiv.com reported, that European Commission officials, along with representatives of some EU countries, are negotiating with drug companies to reduce the quantity of vaccines, which they had initially ordered during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Bauer, negotiations to amend the terms of the contract with Pfizer/BioNTech as part of the EU's joint coronavirus vaccine procurement agreement, which are being led by the European Commission, are still ongoing. As a result, it is still too early to say what the final outcome will be.

"Supplies have been suspended for the duration of the negotiations," Bauer said. "The duration of the contract, and the possible reduction in the number of so-far undelivered doses, as well as the price of those doses are all being discussed," she added.

Bauer said that, during the negotiations it is also necessary take into account that giving up the contract entirely is not in the manufacturers' interest.

"We also still have to consider the possible risk of new and more dangerous COVID-19 strains emerging. The current contract will ensure that we have rapid access to vaccine, which have been adapted to tackle these new strains, as soon as they are available on the market as a result of the number of doses already ordered. It is therefore neither realistic nor prudent to abandon (the purchase of) all doses," Bauer said.

Bauer went on to say, the terms of the EU's contract with Pfizer/BioNTech under the joint procurement agreement, are also currently being renegotiated. Under the current contract, Estonia is due to receive a further 1.3 million doses, however, deliveries as part of that particular deal are currently on hold. No deliveries from Pfizer/BioNTech are due to arrive Estonia in 2023, Bauer said.

According to a Health Insurance Fund representative, as per its contract for Pfizer vaccines, Estonia has not made any payments upfront and will only pay for the vaccines on a rolling basis once deliveries begin to arrive.

Estonia currently has around 1.05 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in stock, 416,000 doses of Moderna and 22,200 doses of the Janssen and Nuvaxovid vaccines. This means Estonia has a total stock of 1,488,200 doses of coronavirus vaccines.

An Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs spokesperson said, the ministry is unable to say how much Estonia had paid for the vaccines, or how much one dose had cost the Estonian taxpayer, due to a confidentiality clause in the purchasing contracts.

However, Euractiv.com estimates, that for Italy, which has a population 45 times larger than Estonia, the total cost of vaccines was around €3 billion.

Estonia has donated more than half a million vaccine doses

According to the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, Estonia has donated a total of 640,880 doses of coronavirus vaccines to developing countries, as well as Ukraine and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Through the World Health Organization's (WTO) COVAX mechanism, Estonia has provided 312,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Pakistan, Ghana, Rwanda and Egypt, 144,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine to Uganda and 118,080 doses of Pfizer to Brazil.

Estonia has also provided 52,800 doses to Ukraine and 14,000 doses to Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Given that approximately 2.1 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in Estonia, and that there are still nearly 1.5 million doses in stock, this means the country has already received 4.24 million doses, of which 15 percent have been donated elsewhere.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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