Unhappy with the amount of COVID-19 vaccines delivered within the EU framework so far, the Czech government has launched separate talks with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca while simultaneously mulling the possible purchase of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, the health ministry has said.
“The health ministry was approached by representatives of AstraZeneca in the Czech Republic with an offer of additional vaccines. We are in contact with AstraZeneca and we are negotiating further details, particularly on the number of doses, date of delivery and price,” health ministry spokesperson Barbora Peterová told news website Seznam Zprávy.
The Czech government is currently assessing whether this offer is in line with EU deals. AstraZeneca was not available for immediate comment on whether there had been talks about a separate deal with Prague.
Last week AstraZeneca insisted that its focus was on “delivering on our substantial global commitments to governments and international health organisations, as quickly as possible… as such there is currently no private sector supply, sale or distribution of the vaccine”.
The remarks, sent to EURACTIV on Friday, came following comments by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš that additional AstraZeneca vaccines were offered to Czechia by an “intermediary” from Dubai.
In reply, AstraZeneca said that “if someone offers private vaccines, it is likely counterfeit, so it should be refused and reported to local health authorities”.
Speaking in the Czech parliament last Thursday (11 February), Babiš said: “While AstraZeneca was refusing to deliver to the EU 80 million doses, we received repeated offers of this vaccine – not only me but three other prime ministers in Europe – even before the start of deliveries [to the EU].”
A day earlier, addressing a press briefing in Belgrade, Babiš unveiled that there were more offers of AstraZeneca vaccines on the black market.
“We have received an offer from an intermediary, via Dubai, to buy five million doses for 10 dollars [per dose],” Deník N quoted Babiš as saying in Belgrade.
The Czech government refused this offer while Babiš also said he had sent a letter about this matter to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Last Friday, the EU executive said, though, that it was not aware of such information.
Babiš also noted that Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán had received a similar offer.
EURACTIV.com was also informed that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) will make announcements this week regarding COVID-19 vaccines on the black market.
Commenting on EURACTIV’s article on the issue, the Czech health ministry replied briefly: “The article reports about an intermediary in Dubai, so our response is not in conflict with the information in the article”.
Meanwhile, the Czech government has declared a new state of emergency after it was requested by all 14 regional leaders, despite disagreement from the national parliament.
Upper Chamber spokesperson Miloš Vystrčil (ECR) said such a decision would breach the Czech Constitution and confirmed he would challenge it before the Constitutional Court.
[Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz – edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos/Zoran Radosavljevic | EURACTIV.com]