Ukraine to fine supplier over late delivery of Chinese COVID-19 vaccines

KYIV, March 5 (Reuters) - Ukraine will impose financial penalties on the local pharmaceutical company Lekhim over delays in delivering Chinese-made Sinovac vaccines, the deputy health minister told Reuters, adding a decision on approving Sinovac’s use was still pending.

Lekhim declined comment but said this week that the first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine would be delivered on March 15.

“They definitely do not meet the stated deadlines,” Ihor Ivashchenko told Reuters by phone. “There will be penalties, which are specified in the contract.”

Ukraine had agreed to buy 1.9 million Sinovac doses and expected to receive the first 700,000 doses within a month of the vaccine being approved in China on Feb. 6.

Ivashchenko did not specify what the financial penalties would be, but according to a document seen by Reuters the government is entitled to fine Lekhim 0.1% of the value of the shipment for every day’s delay.

The government had turned down a request by Lekhim to be allowed to delay the shipment schedule and change the way the vaccine’s efficacy was measured.

Ukraine had stipulated that Sinovac had to have an efficacy rate of at least 70%.

Sinovac’s vaccine efficacy rates have varied in testing across several countries. Results from trials in Brazil found the vaccine to be only 50.65% effective but more recent data from Turkey this week pointed to an efficacy rate of 83.5%.

Ivashchenko said a decision to approve Sinovac would rest with the state agency Medical Procurement of Ukraine (MPU).

“All options are possible,” said an MPU representative when asked about whether the vaccine would be approved.

Ukraine started its vaccine rollout last month, but a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the country of 41 million prompted the government this week to warn of a possible return to a hard nationwide lockdown. (Editing by Matthias Williams and Alex Richardson)