Sweden wants clarity on vaccine doses before paying Pfizer

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Health Agency is seeking clarification from the European Union on how many COVID-19 vaccine doses per vial it has to pay Pfizer for and is hoping for an answer before payments fall due in a few weeks.

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in front of the displayed Pfizer logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reported earlier on Tuesday that Sweden was withholding payment for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine until it has clarity on the number of doses it has been billed for. Pfizer has charged for six doses per vial rather than the agreed upon five doses.

Sweden now wants the EU Commission and Pfizer to reach an agreement on how many doses there are in each vial, it added.

“Yes, it is true, but it’s also the case that no current bills are due to be paid yet so it’s not a problem. We hope to get clarification before then,” Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell told a news conference when asked about the report, adding that it was some weeks before payments were due.

Pfizer Sweden declined to comment to Reuters on the report but told Dagens Nyheter it had charged for six doses per vial.

“Since the approval of the sixth dose, we use that number. We have to go with the approved product summary”, the newspaper quoted Ulrika Goossens, Head of Communications for Pfizer Sweden, as saying.

Europe’s medicines regulator gave permission earlier this month for an extra sixth dose to be extracted from vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, increasing the number of available shots at a time when supplies are short.

To extract the sixth dose, low dead volume syringes or needles, which only retain a low amount of solution after an injection, are needed.

“This is unacceptable. If a country only has the ability to extract five doses, it has received fewer doses for the same price,” the paper quoted Sweden’s vaccine coordinator Richard Bergstrom as saying.

Sweden buys more vaccines than it needs from the joint EU purchase programme, passing the extra to neighbouring Norway, which is not a member of the bloc.

Reporting by Johan Ahlander and Helena Soderpalm; editing by Niklas Pollard, Kirsten Donovan