VILNIUS – The Lithuanian government will make decisions on COVID-19 vaccine purchases, but there are many risks in planning them, Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga said on Monday.
President Gitanas Nauseda's office has refused to convene a meeting of the State Defense Council on vaccine procurement matters.
"The government will definitely make decisions on the purchase of vaccines, all the more so because it involves certain financial obligations. Anyway, the State Defense Council decisions would have been recommendatory in nature," he told reporters.
The Commission has signed a preliminary purchase agreement with British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca which expects to be among the first to start producing a COVID-19 vaccine.
Member states could withdraw from the acquisition after the agreement was signed, but Lithuania has decided to go ahead with it, according to Veryga.
In the procurement, doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be distributed on a population-based pro-rata basis.
Lithuania has to decide on what further strategy as the European Commission is negotiating with other potential vaccine producers, Veryga said.
"We should decide whether we diversify the procurement of vaccines, or set some proportions, or opt to participate in the procurement of all vaccines – there are seven of them currently – and earmark money for that," the minister said.
"There are a lot of risks. It is possible that, in theory, all these vaccines will be approved as effective and then we will need to buy all of them," he said. "If we refuse to buy a vaccine and it proves to be effective, then we will not have an effective vaccine."
The country may end up buying too many doses than its population needs and will have to decide what to do with the surplus, the minister said.
The vaccine procurement process involves significant financial commitments and strategic decisions that go beyond the Health Ministry's competence, he added.