Data from the 27 E.U. member states by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control shows that over all, 80 percent of vaccine doses distributed to the bloc have already been administered. That share drops to 65 percent for AstraZeneca, however, suggesting that many of its doses are sitting unused.

Yet it is hard to predict how serious a blow the latest twist in the AstraZeneca saga — and the new Johnson & Johnson concerns — will be to E.U. vaccination efforts, as officials in Brussels have made big if belated efforts to turbocharge the second-quarter supply of doses.

The European Union is poised to receive at least 300 million doses of various vaccines, three times what it got in the first quarter. Two hundred million are slated to come from Pfizer/BioNTech. Moderna is expected to deliver 35 million doses. Another 55 million doses are due of the Johnson & Johnson jab, and 70 million from AstraZeneca.

In the rosiest scenario, the European Union could get up to 360 million doses by June.

On Thursday, after Spain’s government changed the age threshold for the AstraZeneca shot, two-thirds of people called up for vaccination in Madrid did not show up, Antonio Zapatero, the regional health minister, told a news conference on Friday.

He attributed the no-show by 18,200 people to “confusion” generated by Spain’s central government, which said on Wednesday that the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given only to people over 60. Before this change, Mr. Zapatero said, the rate of abstention was 2 percent.

In Belgium, where the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has also been limited, the authorities said they did not expect major delays in the overall rollout, but they are still concerned about the confusion that the rare blood clotting issue is causing.

Yves Van Laethem, a top epidemiologist who is the country’s Covid task force spokesman, said he expected a two-week delay that would mostly affect younger age groups in late summer. He said the E.U. regulator guidance had only partly helped in clarifying the situation.

The European Medicines Agency’s opinion “wasn’t very clear, and it is also part of the problem,” Dr. Van Laethem said in an interview. “When you say, ‘We don’t apply limitations, but we just say there are serious side effects,’ there is part science and part diplomacy in that.”

He said the limited effect that the new AstraZeneca issues would have on Belgian’s rollout was in large part because the country had ordered big shares of other vaccines.

Although all E.U. countries have been offered a chunk of each vaccine approved in the bloc so far — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer — many opted to forgo parts of their share of more expensive or cumbersome vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna early on, instead favoring the AstraZeneca jab.

“In Britain or Eastern Europe, a big part of the campaigns are based on AstraZeneca,” Dr. Van Laethem said.

Wealthier bloc members like Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands can better compensate for the loss of confidence in AstraZeneca, because they acquired extra doses of other vaccines — especially Pfizer — through a secondary market after poorer E.U. nations gave theirs up.

Those countries — including Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and Slovakia — are likely to be less able to quickly offer alternatives.

Dr. Van Laethem, the Belgian immunologist, said that the national and European authorities needed to better communicate the costs and benefits of taking the AstraZeneca dose versus and the other authorized vaccines.

Experts worry that even limited concerns over one vaccine’s unlikely side effects can affect people’s overall willingness to be immunized.

“The main thing is to make people understand that the problem is the virus,” he said. “We have to vaccinate people — the risk linked to the virus is higher than those rare side effects.”

Raphael Minder contributed reporting from Madrid and Constant Méheut from Paris.

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Johnson & Johnson delays its Covid-19 vaccine rollout in Europe.

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it would delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid concerns over rare blood clots, in another blow to the continent’s ambition to ramp up inoculation campaigns that have lagged behind other countries in the West.

Several countries of the bloc were poised to start administering the vaccine later this week, in what would have been a boost to efforts by the European Union to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by September.

“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement, adding that it had been reviewing the cases of blood clots detected in the United States with European health authorities.

The first signs of concern in Europe came last week. The European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, said it was investigating reports of four cases of blood clots in people who had received a shot of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine in the United States, one of them being fatal. The regulator said it wasn’t clear if there was a link between the vaccine and the clots, adding that it treated the reports as “safety signal” that required further assessment.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose coronavirus vaccine came to a sudden halt in much of the United States on Tuesday after federal health agencies called for a pause in the vaccine’s use following the emergence of a rare blood clotting in six recipients.

All six were women between the ages of 18 and 48 and all developed symptoms within about two weeks of vaccination. One woman died and a second woman in Nebraska has been hospitalized in critical condition.

Nearly seven million people in the United States have received Johnson & Johnson shots so far, and about nine million more doses have been shipped out to the states, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johnson & Johnson’s announcement comes as Europe has been embroiled in a regulatory back-and-forth over another vaccine, AstraZeneca’s. Several countries have restricted the use of the vaccine in younger people, after the European Medicines Agency said there was “a possible link” between blood clots and the vaccine earlier this month, and said it should be listed as a rare side effect.

Both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca use the same technology, prompting concerns that the blood clots reported in recipients of both vaccines could be the same rare, yet sometimes fatal side effect.

The agency stopped short of advising to curb the use of the vaccine in 27 member countries, saying that it was up to the national authorities to decide who should receive which vaccine, which resulted in a patchwork of different national regulations.

France and Belgium have restricted its use for those older than 55, and Germany, Italy and Spain, for those over 60. Some other countries, such as Poland, which rely heavily on AstraZeneca in their national rollouts, decided to go ahead with AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

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Blood Clots Linked to AZ Vaccine Stem From Rare Antibody Reaction

Two reports published on Friday in a leading medical journal help to explain how AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine can, in rare cases, cause serious and sometimes fatal blood clots.

Scientific teams from Germany and Norway found that people who developed the clots after vaccination had produced antibodies that activated their platelets, a blood component involved in clotting. The new reports add extensive details to what the researchers have already stated publicly about the blood disorder.

Why the rare reaction occurred is not known. Younger people appear more susceptible than older ones, but researchers say no pre-existing health conditions are known to predispose people to the problem, so there is no way to tell if an individual is at high risk.

Reports of the clots have already led a number of countries to limit AstraZeneca’s vaccine to older people, or to stop using it entirely. The cases have dealt a crushing blow to global efforts to halt the pandemic, because the AstraZeneca shot — easy to store and relatively cheap — has been a mainstay of vaccination programs in more than 100 countries.

statement on its website, AstraZeneca said it was “actively collaborating with the regulators to implement these changes to the product information and is already working to understand the individual cases, epidemiology and possible mechanisms that could explain these extremely rare events.”

The two new reports were published by The New England Journal of Medicine. One from Germany describes 11 patients, including nine women ages 22 to 49. Five to 16 days after vaccination, they were found to have one or more clots. Nine had cerebral venous thrombosis, a clot blocking a vein that drains blood from the brain. Some had clots in their lungs, abdomen or other areas. Six of the 11 died, one from a brain hemorrhage.

One patient had pre-existing conditions that affected clotting, but during a news briefing on Friday, Dr. Andreas Greinacher, an author of the report, said those conditions most likely played only a minor role in the disorder that occurred after vaccination.

second report, from Norway, described five patients, one male and four female health care workers ages 32 to 54, who had clots and bleeding from seven to 10 days after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. Four had severe clots in the brain, and three died. Severe headaches were among their early symptoms. Like the German patients, all had high levels of antibodies that could activate platelets.

The team from Norway also recommended treatment with intravenous immune globulin. The researchers said the disorder was rare, but “a new phenomenon with devastating effects for otherwise healthy young adults,” and they suggested that it may be more common than previous studies of the AstraZeneca vaccine had indicated.

On Friday, European regulators also said they were reviewing reports of a few blood clot cases that occurred in people who had received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. In the United States, federal agencies are investigating reports of a different type of unusual blood disorder involving a precipitous drop in platelets that emerged in a few people who had received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

Benjamin Mueller and Melissa Eddy contributed.

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Crowds Lured by a Hoax Concert Clash With Belgian Police

BRUSSELS — In an April Fool’s Day joke that went wrong, a fake announcement of a music festival contributed to thousands gathering in a major park in Brussels on Thursday in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions. As the police confronted the crowd, several officers and participants were wounded, and four people were arrested.

The unusually warm weather in the city would most likely have drawn people to the park in higher numbers, but the prank added to the density. The level of frustration, particularly among younger people, is high in Belgium, as new Covid-19 cases are increasing and hospitals become saturated despite months of restrictions.

The hoax festival, announced on Facebook and called “La Boum,” a slang word in French for a party, promised the appearance of famous DJs, including David Guetta, and claimed that no coronavirus rules would be followed.

The organizers noted that the festival was a hoax, but, according to the police, 1,500 to 2,000 people still gathered in the park, Bois de la Cambre, on Thursday afternoon, after tens of thousands registered on Facebook their interest in the event. Despite several warnings, the police said, the attendees refused to leave, and some chanted “Freedom!” and threw bottles. The police used water cannons and sent in mounted officers to disperse the crowd.

Belgium has been in a semi-lockdown since October, with restaurants and bars closed, and rules requiring residents to work from home and limiting social contacts to one person per household. Up to four people are allowed to meet outside, as long as they wear face masks and respect social-distancing rules. Last week, in response to an increasing number of new cases and a rise in the number of hospitalized patients, the Belgian authorities tightened the rules, ordering hairdressers and beauty salons to close and allowing nonessential stores to serve customers by appointment only.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo posted on Twitter that the gathering in Brussels was “totally unacceptable.”

“All support to the injured police officers,” he added. “I understand everyone is tired of corona. But the rules are there for a reason, and they are binding for everyone. Hospitals are filling up. Solidarity now is the key to freedom tomorrow.”

Annelies Verlinden, the Belgian interior minister, acknowledged that “for many people, especially the young ones, the Covid crisis is now lasting a very long time.” But she said that the gathering in Brussels was “a slap in the face for all those who are doing their best to respect the coronavirus measures.”

On Wednesday, a Brussels court ordered the Belgian government to lift all Covid-19 restrictions, ruling that the measures did not have a legal basis because they had been instituted by ministerial decrees. But the court gave the government 30 days to remedy the situation, and a special pandemic law is currently being debated in Parliament.

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Can U.S. Travelers Go To Europe? Here’s What to Know

With the number of people in the United States vaccinated against the coronavirus climbing, Americans are starting to explore their prospects for international travel this summer, a season when Europe is traditionally a big draw.

Most of Europe has been off-limits to most U.S. citizens for over a year, and the continent is currently grappling with a third wave of coronavirus infections and a surge in new, more contagious variants, making it unclear when its borders will reopen. But some European countries have started to welcome vaccinated travelers, including American tourists, and others are making preparations to ease restrictions in time for the summer season.

Vaccine and health certificates that would help speed travel are under development, which could make it easier for tourism to restart. The 27 member countries of the European Union have endorsed the idea of a vaccine certificate. While individual European countries will still set their own rules, the initiative is expected to establish a coordinated approach across the continent.

“Finally, we have a tangible solution to coordinating and harmonizing travel measures,” said Eduardo Santander, chief executive of the European Travel Commission, an association of national tourism organizations based in Brussels. “I think other countries like the U.S. will also come up with their own technological solutions that will be compatible and after a period of trials this summer, a global standard will be established.”

including Albania and Armenia.

As the number of cases has risen in Europe, and vaccination has been sluggish, several European Union countries have gone back into lockdown. France, Belgium and Portugal have reintroduced stringent measures that restrict nonessential travel, even from within the bloc and within what is known as the Schengen Zone, which includes nonmember countries that allow free movement across their borders.

“Right now, in some European countries, it might feel like you are in the middle of a storm, which is how we felt in the U.K a couple of months ago,” said Gloria Guevara Manzo, chief executive and president of the World Travel & Tourism Council, a forum that works with governments to raise awareness about the travel industry.

European Travel Agents’ and Tour Operators’ Association. “But right now, we are not talking about Americans visiting Europe.”

American travelers do have some options, though: Having brought the virus under control, Iceland is allowing all vaccinated travelers — including those from the United States — to enter without being subject to Covid-19 testing or quarantine measures.

Greece, one of the most popular European summer destinations for Americans, announced this month that it would reopen for all tourists in mid-May, as long as they show proof of vaccination, antibodies or a negative Covid-19 test result before traveling. All visitors will be subject to random testing upon arrival.

Turkey said it would not require international travelers to be vaccinated this summer and will re-evaluate testing policies after April 15.

Other European countries like Slovenia and Estonia are letting in vaccinated tourists, but not those from the United States.

several cruise lines have announced “staycation sailings” around the British Isles starting in June.

Many Britons traveled last summer when the virus seemed to have ebbed, and a recent study found that they brought a significant number of infections back into the United Kingdom. A ban on British travel abroad for leisure was enacted on Jan. 4 and was expected to expire in May, but the government introduced legislation this week that lays down the legal framework to extend the restrictions until the end of June.

It is not clear when exactly the United Kingdom lift its quarantine requirements for more tourism, but Visit Britain forecasts a slow recovery that will start toward late summer.

Earlier this month, the European Commission proposed a digital travel certificate that would prove that a person has been vaccinated, received a negative Covid-19 test result or recovered after contracting the virus.

States have different quarantine requirements, so travelers should check what their state requires before booking a vacation abroad.

Each country sets its own rules, but most safety protocols are unlikely to change this summer, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Visitors will be expected to wear masks and keep a safe distance in public spaces. Hotels, restaurants and event spaces will have enhanced cleaning protocols in place, and some may impose capacity restrictions.

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. And sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to receive expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places list for 2021.

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India Cuts Back on Vaccine Exports as Infections Surge at Home

NEW DELHI — With its own battle against the coronavirus taking a sharp turn for the worse, India has severely curtailed exports of Covid-19 vaccines, triggering setbacks for vaccination drives in many other countries.

The government of India is now holding back nearly all of the 2.4 million doses that the Serum Institute of India, the private company that is one of the world’s largest producers of the AstraZeneca vaccine, makes each day.

India is desperate for all the doses it can get. Infections are soaring, topping 50,000 per day, more than double the number less than two weeks ago. And the Indian vaccine drive has been sluggish, with less than 4 percent of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people getting a jab, far behind the rates of the United States, Britain and most European countries.

Just a few weeks ago, India was a major exporter of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was using that to exert influence in South Asia and around the world. More than 70 countries, from Djibouti to Britain, received vaccines made in India, with a total of more than 60 million doses. From mid January into March, not more than a few days passed between major vaccine shipments leaving India.

data from India’s foreign ministry. And Covax, the program set up by donor agencies to purchase vaccines for poorer nations, said on Thursday that it had told those countries that nearly 100 million doses expected in March and April would face delays because of “increased demand for Covid-19 vaccines in India.”

The Indian government has not publicly commented on what’s happening, and would not when reached by The New York Times for this article. But health experts say the explanation is obvious: India is drawing up its gates as a second wave of infections hits home, holding tight to a vaccine that it didn’t develop but that is being produced in huge quantities on its soil.

a heavy-handed nationalist, has regulatory control over how many vaccine doses can be exported at any given time, and it seems India is going in the same direction as the European Union, which is moving to curb exports.

Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of the Serum Institute and scion of the billionaire family that runs the company, finds himself in a highly uncomfortable spot. The Serum Institute has a reputational interest in keeping its word to its foreign customers and to AstraZeneca, and fulfilling the contracts it has signed.

Mr. Poonawalla tweeted in late February. “We are trying our best.”

a deal it signed last year with AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant that teamed up with the scientists at Oxford who developed its vaccine.

Production issues at other AstraZeneca facilities in Belgium and the Netherlands have led to wealthier nations like Canada, Saudi Arabia and Britain to rely on Serum Institute’s doses as well, making the company even more critical to the global supply chain of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

the global vaccine supply chain.

With new variants spreading, he said, it’s in the interests of all countries to work together to vaccinate the world.

“Many countries around the world, poorer ones in particular, are counting on India,” Mr. Wouters said. “Vaccine nationalism hurts us all.”

Nepal, one of Asia’s poorest nations and next door to India, has had to halt its vaccination campaign. It was heavily reliant on doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute, but with its national stockpile running low, Nepal stopped administering vaccines on March 17.

Dr. Jhalak Sharma, chief of the immunization department within Nepal’s health ministry, said the country had received a donation of one million doses from the Indian government and had already paid 80 percent of the price for the next two million but that didn’t seem to have made a difference.

according to Reuters. Morocco is now scrambling to secure more of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine or get doses from other sources, Moroccan news media reported.

The Serum Institute’s manufacturing capacity was always central to a plan to get vaccines to the poor. A spokesman for AstraZeneca would not disclose exactly what percentage of the global supply of its vaccine that Serum manufactures, but a recent AstraZeneca statement called the contribution “substantial.” Serum has committed to making around a third of the total 3 billion doses that AstraZeneca said it will produce by the end of 2021, though meeting that timeline seems increasingly unlikely.

The alliance between Serum, which started out as a ranch that made serums from horse blood, and Oxford-AstraZeneca has resulted in the world’s cheapest Covid-19 shot: just $2. The vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna, by comparison, cost much more and require extreme cold storage, adding to the difficulty.

Serum is also playing a huge role in the Covax program for poorer nations. Documents from the World Health Organization show that the Indian company was expected to contribute 240 million doses by the end of June.

But the data from the Indian foreign ministry, and the statement Thursday from Covax, indicate that vaccine drives around the world are likely to be further delayed.

The Serum Institute has supplied Covax with 28 million doses so far, according to the international program. India’s foreign ministry showed that 18 million doses had been shipped abroad under Covax, suggesting that about 10 million doses of India’s domestic vaccination also came from the program, which lists India as qualifying for a share.

In contrast, about 34 million doses have been supplied in commercial deals and about 8 million donated by the government of India as part of its vaccine diplomacy.

On April 1, India will expand eligibility and allow anyone 45 or older to get a jab.

“It’s a fluid situation,” said K. Srinath Reddy, a health policy expert at India’s nonprofit Public Health Foundation. “But at the moment, given the fact that vaccine supply and Covid situation is dynamic, I think it’s only appropriate that government of India takes a pause and says, ‘Let’s hold onto the stocks.’”

Benjamin Mueller contributed from London, and Bhadra Sharma from Kathmandu, Nepal.

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Johnson Hopes Vaccine Success Can Inoculate Him Against Brexit Critics

LONDON — Britain’s rapid rollout of coronavirus vaccines has revived the political fortunes of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Now, Mr. Johnson’s allies hope the stark disparity between Britain’s performance and the European Union’s will do something perhaps even more challenging: vindicate their larger Brexit project.

Pro-Brexit politicians and commentators are casting Britain’s vaccine deployment, which ranks among the fastest in the world, as an example of risk-taking and entrepreneurial pluck that comes from not being shackled to the collective decision-making of the 27 member states of the European Union.

With vaccination rates that are a fraction of Britain’s, threats of export bans on vaccines produced on the continent and churlish statements about British-made vaccines by leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France, the European Union has seemingly done all it can to make it look like Britain picked the right time to leave.

“It is the first serious test that the U.K. state has faced since Brexit,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent who studies the British right. “Boris Johnson is going to have a vaccine dividend, and that will give him a whole new narrative for the summer and beyond.”

the costs of Brexit since Britain severed itself from the European Union in January — damaging disruptions to cross-channel trade and businesses choking on reams of red tape, among other headaches. And it conveniently ignores the harrowing experience many Britons had with the virus before the first vaccine “jabs” arrived last December.

according to a new survey conducted by Ipsos MORI for the E.U.-U.K. Forum, an organization that promotes cross-Channel dialogue. Only 12 percent said they thought Britain had performed worse while 14 percent thought both had handled things equally well.

For all its early stumbles, said Kelly Beaver, managing director of Public Affairs at Ipsos MORI, “the British public feel that overall, the government has done well compared to its E.U. counterparts, no doubt a halo effect of the vaccination program that has, to date, been incredibly successful.”

Significantly, a slight plurality of those surveyed — 40 percent — said they thought Brexit had helped improve Britain’s handling of the pandemic, while 14 percent said it had made it worse, and 38 percent thought it had made no difference.

Overall, the survey shows that the strength of feeling over Brexit has faded somewhat although a majority expect it to increase food prices and make European vacations more difficult. And Britons remain sharply divided, not just over E.U. membership but also on other issues like crime, British values and political correctness.

Mr. Johnson’s vaccine bounce, analysts point out, could be fleeting if a new variant emerges or if the economy does not recover swiftly.

But Mr. Goodwin said one consequence of the vaccine success is that there are few signs of significant numbers of people rethinking the wisdom of Brexit or suffering the acute regret — or as he called it, “Bregret” — that some expected.

The British media has understandably given more coverage to the 28 million people who have been inoculated than to the post-Brexit trade disruptions that have afflicted some British food and seafood exports and left supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland empty.

The monthslong shutdown of much of Britain’s economy will also complicate the task of identifying the negative effects of Brexit, since they are likely to be lost in a sea of red ink. And long before the pandemic, economists predicted that Brexit’s biggest cost would be to dampen economic expansion, an effect that would compound almost imperceptibly over many years, rather than create a sudden shock.

In any event, the vaccine rollout has helped the government to hone a separate and distinct argument for Brexit, one that emphasizes responsibility and accountability over economic costs or benefits.

David Frost, a former diplomat who negotiated the Brexit trade agreement for Mr. Johnson and is now a cabinet minister, articulated this case earlier this month when he said Britain’s membership in the European Union had stifled its initiative, producing “a kind of institutional paralysis.”

Britain faced problems “which we seemed to find very difficult to summon up the will to resolve, and I do think E.U membership had a kind sapping quality to our ability to take decisions,” he said at the Policy Exchange, a research institute.

“Brexit doesn’t solve those problems,” Mr. Frost added, “but it does give us means to solve them, to move on, to get a grip but also to reform our attitudes and become a country that can deal with problems again.”

Britain, officials point out, made risky bets on multiple vaccine candidates and aggressively locked up supplies in advance — characteristics, they say, that were conspicuously lacking in the European Union’s plodding, lockstep, risk-averse approach.

But critics argue that Britain could have done much of what it did as an active member of the European Union. The British medical regulator always had the right to approve vaccines, on an emergency basis, faster than the rest of the bloc — as it did last December — and the government always had the freedom to buy doses separately from the bloc, as some other E.U. countries have since done.

The strengths of Britain’s rollout, these critics said, are rooted in its robust scientific establishment, which developed the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine, and its widely revered National Health Service, which has delivered the doses. Neither of those were strengthened by leaving the European Union.

Britain cut its own deal with AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, which is at the heart of its clash with the European Union, which was slower to make such purchases. Brussels has accused the company of giving Britain preferential treatment at the expense of the bloc.

European leaders will be weighing a plan this week to halt vaccine exports temporarily as a way to demand reciprocity with Britain and other countries, and that could leave Britain — and Mr. Johnson — badly exposed. The country relies heavily on vaccines manufactured in factories in Belgium and other European countries to keep the pace of its inoculations going.

“What Brexit changes is Britain’s ability to protect the overseas parts of its supply chains,” said Mark Malloch Brown, a diplomat and former Labour government minister who chaired an anti-Brexit group, Best for Britain. “The crisis, looked at from the other end, exposes Britain’s vulnerability.”

Britain’s reliance on the European Union goes beyond a steady supply of vaccines. It is by far Britain’s largest trading partner, and the two sides have close links in security and law enforcement. While Mr. Johnson himself has avoided using overtly provocative language against Brussels, he has overseen a rapid deterioration in relations since Britain officially cast off on Jan. 1.

“I’m worried that they’re getting so carried away by the evidence that Brexit was a good thing, that they’re going to carry on dissing Europe,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to Prime Minister Tony Blair. “Then the next time we need them for something, it’s going to backfire on us.”

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With a Police Raid and the Threat of Export Curbs on Vaccines, the E.U. Plays Tough

BRUSSELS — Tipped off by European authorities, a team of Italian police inspectors descended on a vaccine-manufacturing facility outside Rome over the weekend. They discovered 29 million doses of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines, feeding suspicions that the company was trying to spirit them overseas instead of distributing them in the European Union.

Four days of checks later, Italian officials accepted AstraZeneca’s explanation that the doses were going through quality control before being shipped to the developing world, and to European countries.

The cinematic raid — intended to put a little muscle behind European Union threats to make the company stop exporting doses — now stands as a vivid example of just how desperate the hunt for vaccines is getting. It was also a sign of the continuing tensions between the bloc and those it suspects might be cheating.

On Wednesday the bloc flexed its powers even more, unveiling emergency rules that grant it broad authority to halt exports of Covid vaccines made in the E.U., escalating an uncharacteristically protectionist stance and risking a fresh crisis in its fragile relations with Britain, a former member.

very advanced in its vaccination campaign and therefore is seen as less needy.

The new rules encourage blocking shipments to countries that do not export vaccines to the European Union or to countries that have “a higher vaccination rate” than the European Union “or where the current epidemiological situation is less serious” than in the bloc.

The European Commission tried to explain why the export measures were necessary.

“Nineteen countries are now reporting increasing case numbers, 15 member states are reporting increased hospital ICU admissions, while eight member states are now reporting increased numbers of deaths,” said Stella Kyriakides, the bloc’s health commissioner.

“This is where we stand today, we’re dealing with a pandemic,’’ she added. ‘‘And this is not seeking to punish any countries. We are the strongest supporters of global solidarity.”

With the threat of export restrictions hanging in the air, the British government and the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, struck a conciliatory tone.

“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take — in the short, medium and long term — to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens” a joint statement issued Wednesday said.

The E.U. has come under criticism at home for permitting exports in the first place, when the United States and Britain practically locked up domestic production for domestic use through contracts with pharmaceutical companies. Until now, the E.U. blocked only a single small shipment to Australia on the grounds that the country was virtually Covid-free.

E.U. officials said the new rules would allow a degree of discretion, meaning they won’t result in a blanket ban on exports, and the officials still expected many exports to continue.

But the measures caused discomfort in many E.U. countries, including the Netherlands and Belgium — both home to major vaccine-exporting factories — and added to worries about disruptions to global supply chains as well as damage to their reputations. Others, such as France and Italy, were happy to see the E.U. take tougher action. E.U. leaders were set to meet via teleconference to discuss the situation Thursday.

“With this mechanism we have a certain leverage, so we can engage in discussion with other major vaccine producers,” Valdis Dombrovskis, the bloc’s trade czar, said at a news briefing Wednesday.

“Despite the fact that the E.U. is one of the global hot spots of the pandemic, the E.U. is at the same time also the second largest exporter of vaccines,” Mr. Dombrovskis said.

From the E.U. perspective, things are so dire that experts argue the export curbs shouldn’t draw shock or consternation.

“In a situation where 70 million doses have been delivered to the E.U. and 40 million have been exported, I do think you don’t have to be too shy about it,” said Guntram Wolff, director of the Brussels-based Bruegel think tank.

“I would have preferred the Commission had fixed this issue earlier with better contracts, but from an ethical point of view, how can you justify shipping a vaccine to the U.K. for a 30-year old to be vaccinated, when a 70-year-old in Belgium is still waiting?”

Mr. Wolff said that trading partners such as Britain should cut the E.U. some slack because of the circumstances, but noted the more aggressive approach was risky.

“At the end of the day, how many more vaccines can you get and what is the risk? An escalation, a trade war, and if supply chains get disrupted, a net-negative outcome for everyone because the overall supply of vaccine goes down,” he said.

These were good reasons, he added, to keep the export control option for leverage but avoid using it as much as possible.

Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Siena, Italy; Monika Pronczuk from Brussels and Benjamin Mueller from London.

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Pope Struggles to Contain Conservative-Liberal Tensions in Catholic Church

Pope Francis is struggling to manage powerful bishops in the U.S. and Germany, two groups at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, as he tries to advance his progressive agenda without jeopardizing the unity of the Catholic Church.

The election of President Biden, a progressive Catholic whom some U.S. bishops want to censure for his support of abortion rights, has exacerbated longstanding tensions between the pope and the largely conservative American episcopate. U.S. church leaders have resisted promoting the pope’s priorities of social and economic justice and care for the environment over opposition to abortion and defense of religious freedom.

On the left, the pope is trying to rein in German bishops who—encouraged by the pope’s liberalizing gestures on topics including sexuality, ecumenism and the role of women—are pressing for changes that go further than Pope Francis is comfortable with, and that conservatives warn could cause a schism.

Pope Francis’ most recent attempt to restrain the Germans came in this week’s Vatican document forbidding clergy to bless same-sex unions, a practice supported by some leading German bishops.

Each country presents “a different set of issues, a different set of struggles but I think some of the underlying dynamics are the same,” said Adam DeVille, a professor of theology at Indiana’s University of Saint Francis. “In both cases, the pope I think is really trying to say, ‘come on guys, let’s rein it in here, let’s get back into the same lane all together.’”

For years, a minority of U.S. bishops closely associated with Pope Francis have pressed for greater adherence to his social agenda. In November 2019, the last time the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops met in person, liberals protested a statement in the conference’s voter guide describing opposing abortion as its “pre-eminent priority.”

In response to a request for comment from The Wall Street Journal, the USCCB said, “Advocacy for the poor and marginalized, migrants, people on death row, the unborn, and everyone in need of God’s mercy is central to the mission of the USCCB, and in this, there is an unbreakable unity with the Holy Father.”

Following Mr. Biden’s election, Pope Francis broke protocol by phoning to congratulate the president-elect. But on inauguration day, Archbishop José Gómez of Los Angeles, president of the USCCB, said, “Our new president has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.”

Meanwhile, some bishops say Mr. Biden’s abortion stance makes him ineligible to receive the Eucharist.

“I do not think he should be presenting himself for Communion,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. “If I knew he were coming and planning to attend Mass, I’d engage in a conversation with him ahead of time to clarify that.”

Asked about the archbishop’s statement, a White House official said on Friday that it was a private matter.

Cardinal Wilton Gregory, a progressive who as archbishop of Washington, D.C., is Mr. Biden’s pastor, has said that the president may continue to receive Communion there.

For Mr. DeVille, the disagreement over how to handle Mr. Biden exemplifies a larger trend: “The U.S. bishops are hardening in some ways into, not totally divergent paths, but clearly different paths…with differently ranked priorities from the pope,” he said, noting that Pope Francis is 84 years of age and perhaps approaching the end of his pontificate. “A lot of the American bishops, especially those on the younger side, are just going to wait him out.”

For his first international trip during the pandemic, Pope Francis visited Iraq.

Meanwhile in Germany, bishops and leading lay Catholics are engaged in a national synod considering major changes to church life, including the possibility of women clergy, married priests and changes to church teaching on sexuality.

This week’s Vatican statement that clergy may not bless same-sex relationships because God “cannot bless sin,” which contrasted with the pope’s conciliatory approach to homosexuality, was meant specifically as a message to Germany, said Sandro Magister, a Vatican expert who writes for Italy’s L’Espresso magazine. Conservative bishops in both the U.S. and Germany have warned that the German synod could lead the church into a split with the rest of the Catholic world.

The statement drew defiant reactions from clergy in Germany and beyond, including Austria and Belgium, with some priests vowing to bless gay couples despite the prohibition.

“The danger is that the German church, if permitted, will become an autonomous church deviating on important points of doctrine,” Mr. Magister said. “This explains why the pope is putting on the brakes.”

Mr. Magister also saw a warning to Germany in the pope’s decision in February 2020 not to loosen requirements for priestly celibacy or allow the ordination of women deacons in Latin America’s Amazon region, despite his earlier indications of openness to those possibilities to address a serious shortage of clergy there.

Vatican offices have also recently issued statements that rule out giving Communion to Protestants or allowing laypeople to administer parishes on an equal basis with priests, both ideas popular with German bishops.

According to Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology at Villanova University, Pope Francis prefers to delegate the delivering of messages that his progressive supporters will find disagreeable.

“When there are gestures of welcoming and so on, it is Francis that does them. When there is some bad news, he lets the CDF,” Mr. Faggioli said, referring to the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

Despite disappointment in Germany with the statement on gay couples, liberals there retain an overwhelmingly positive view of the pope, said Ludwig Ring-Eifel, head of the German bishops’ news agency KNA.

“The perception goes somewhat like this: Francis has opened all the doors which [Popes John Paul and Benedict] had previously declared closed on gays, on celibacy, on intercommunion. But the conservatives in the Vatican still stand in his way, and he alone is too weak to complete the revolution,” Mr. Ring-Eifel said.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at francis.rocca@wsj.com and Ian Lovett at ian.lovett@wsj.com

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