AstraZeneca has slashed its delivery plans, telling European leaders that it would hand over 100 million fewer doses by the middle of the year, according to the commission’s president, Ms. von der Leyen.

Only one in five French people now trust the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to a poll by the Elabe Institute published Tuesday.

Now Europe is striking a more aggressive tone about protecting its interests. Italy blocked a small shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines to Australia earlier this month. Ms. von der Leyen upped the ante this week, threatening to use an emergency mechanism, last used during the 1970s oil crisis, that would allow the bloc to seize production of vaccines.

“It is hard to explain to our citizens why vaccines produced in the E.U. are going to other countries,” Ms. von der Leyen said.

Early this month, Toon Vanagt, a Belgian tech entrepreneur, accompanied his 77-year-old father to a vaccination center north of Brussels. Mr. Vanagt, 47, was not eligible for the vaccine himself, but a worker there offered him a leftover shot, which he gladly accepted.

software companies have rushed to link patients with doses that would otherwise expire. But in Belgium, when Mr. Vanagt tweeted that he had been vaccinated, it became a mini scandal. Health officials rebuked the vaccine center, which quickly apologized: “A minor communication problem, very quickly rectified.”

Belgium’s rollout is one example of the Continent’s rigid approach to following vaccination guidelines. In a country where nursing home infections led to one of the highest per capita death tolls, the policy was intended to strictly prioritize the neediest residents.

Many European countries are also stockpiling doses to guarantee that everyone who receives a first injection will receive the second dose on time. The United States and Britain have been more flexible, erring on the side of giving more first injections.

“In the U.S., there is a much more flexible, liberal system and you just vaccinate people who come along. Same in the U.K. And it can go quicker. Here it is quite regulated,’’ said Steven Van Gucht, the Belgian government’s top virologist, who said it was too soon to know which system is better.

Administrative hiccups have exacerbated the problems. In Frankfurt, Elke Morgenstern was escorted out of a vaccine center because she enrolled using the wrong online application. “It was embarrassing,” said Ms. Morgenstern, adding that she qualified for a vaccine because of a pre-existing condition.

Because of the AstraZeneca shortages, she cannot book another appointment before May.

“It is a catastrophe how they are handling things here,” she said.

In the Lombardy region of Italy, once the epicenter of the pandemic, the vaccination campaign got off to a slow start in part because the top health care official refused to marshal medical workers over the Christmas holidays. Technical difficulties worsened the problems at the region’s vaccination centers.

“Some sessions were empty,” said Paola Pedrini, the regional secretary general for Italy’s family doctors federation. “For some others, they called 900 people when they could only vaccinate 600.”

For all the problems, Dr. Slaoui said Europeans are in an admirable position. By the numbers, the Continent is about five weeks behind the United States, with vaccine supply expected to increase steadily. “It’s too late to have taken the first bite,” he said. “But they’re in a good place.”

Dr. Van Gucht, of Belgium, agreed. But he said European leaders will likely take nationalistic lessons from the past months.

“I think we relied a little bit too much on the free markets,” he said. “What you really need to do from the beginning is really make sure you produce the vaccines on your territory and that they’re destined for your own population.”

Jason Horowitz and Emma Bubola contributed reporting from Italy and Melissa Eddy from Berlin.

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Europe Says Britain Is Violating International Law Over Northern Ireland

BRUSSELS — The European Union announced on Monday that it is taking legal action against Britain for what it called a violation of a legal agreement over Brexit and Northern Ireland that was part of a trade pact forged between the two sides last year.

European officials said Brussels was responding to a move this month by the British government to unilaterally ease trading and border rules for Northern Irish businesses by extending a grace period for implementation of the Brexit accord.

Under a protocol on Northern Ireland that was part of the pact, Britain is required to consult the European Union on changes to its implementation — which it did not do. The protocol was aimed at ensuring that there was no hard border between Ireland, a member of the bloc, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

The officials said Britain had twice in the last six months unilaterally broken the agreement, first with a bill last December that dropped some elements objected to by the European Union, and then with the unilateral decision earlier this month to extend a grace period for British goods arriving in Northern Ireland until Oct 1.

has written to David Frost, his British counterpart, urging Britain to refrain from putting the unilateral steps into practice and instead work with Brussels to find joint solutions that could provide British businesses stability and predictability.

“The E.U. and the U.K. agreed the protocol together,” Mr. Sefcovic wrote. “We are also bound to implement it together. Unilateral decisions and international law violations by the U.K. defeat its very purpose and undermine trust between us.”

Relations between Britain and the European Union have been tendentious for some time over issues surrounding the Northern Ireland protocol, the larger agreement on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc, and over vaccine supplies.

Brussels has accused Britain of holding back vaccines scheduled for Europe and even of a ban, which does not exist, on vaccine exports. In return, the British government has touted the speed and success of its vaccine procurement and rollout, comparing it to the slower pace of the European Union, and argued that Brexit has made that success possible.

The legal process over the grace period allows Britain a month to respond, and another month for examination. If not resolved before then, Britain could be brought before the European Court of Justice and face trade sanctions.

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E.U. Exports Millions of Covid Vaccine Doses Despite Supply Crunch at Home

BRUSSELS — The European Union exported 34 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in recent weeks to dozens of countries, even as it faced shortages at home that contributed to its vaccine rollout trailing far behind drives in the United States, Britain and Israel.

The E.U. has come under fierce criticism for “vaccine nationalism” and protectionism, which intensified last week when Italy blocked a small shipment of doses to Australia, stepping up a tug of war over badly needed shots.

But export numbers, recorded in detailed, closely held documents seen by The New York Times, show that the European Union, far from being protectionist, has in fact been a vaccine exporting powerhouse.

That news, E.U. officials conceded privately, was bound to outrage European citizens in 27 nations who are still waiting for their shots while watching Americans, Britons, Israelis and others race past them into resuming a safer and more normal public life, and economic activity.


Whether to reveal the extent of E.U. exports has been hotly debated in the corridors of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, which is at the heart of procuring the vaccines and has suffered the biggest political blow for the underwhelming rollout.

But several senior E.U. officials argued that revealing the immense export efforts that are keeping countries around the world vaccinated and helping the world economy restart might help Europe’s reputation after last week’s dispute.

Italy was able to block the shipment to Australia last week under a new emergency rule that allows any E.U. member to halt exports of the vaccines produced in the bloc.

Italy’s decision was a bold, if symbolic move to push the bloc to make more demands of pharmaceutical companies. (The companies have contracts with countries around the world, but the details of the deals are often secret, making it difficult to know what deliveries have been promised to various countries.)

approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in its 27 countries, but the hopes that it would boost its sluggish immunization rollout were quickly crushed: the company revealed major production problems, and slashed delivery promises for the first quarter of the year.

black-market offers of extra doses, and several are tapping vaccines not yet authorized in the bloc, including Russia’s Sputnik V.

Hopes that supply woes could be eased in the second quarter of this year largely hinge on AstraZeneca’s production picking up and a robust delivery plan by Johnson & Johnson, whose Covid-19 vaccine is set to be authorized by the E.U. regulator on Thursday.

Yet there are concerns that Johnson & Johnson could also be slashing supply to the bloc, prompting a request to the United States government for a loan of 10 million doses.

Officials in the United States and the European Union said the request had been denied.

Noah Weiland contributed reporting from Washington and Rebecca Robbins from Bellingham, Wash.

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E.U. Exports Millions of Vaccine Doses Despite Supply Crunch at Home

BRUSSELS — The European Union exported 25 million doses of vaccines produced in its territory last month to 31 countries around the world, with Britain and Canada the top destinations, just as the bloc saw its own supply cut drastically by pharmaceutical companies, slowing down vaccination efforts and stoking a political crisis at home.

The bloc — whose 27 nations are home to 450 million people — came under criticism last week, when Italy used an export-control mechanism to block a small shipment of vaccines to Australia. The move was criticized as protectionist, and in sharp contrast to the European Union’s mantra of free markets and global solidarity in the face of the pandemic.

The issue of vaccine production and exports has also created a bitter dispute between the European Union and Britain, a recently departed member, amid accusations that the bloc wants to deprive the country of vaccine doses out of spite, in part because Britain is doing so much better with its rollout.

The tensions culminated in a diplomatic spat on Wednesday after a top E.U. official accused the United States and Britain of bringing in an “outright ban” on exports — a charge that the British government vehemently denied.

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black-market offers of extra doses, and several are tapping unauthorized vaccines, including Russia’s Sputnik V, which is still under review for use in the bloc.

Hopes that these woes could be eased in the second quarter of this year have largely hinged on AstraZeneca’s supply picking up and a robust delivery plan by Johnson & Johnson, whose Covid-19 vaccine is set to be authorized by the E.U. regulator on Thursday.

Yet there are concerns that Johnson & Johnson could also be slashing supply to the bloc, prompting a request by the bloc to the United States government for a loan of 10 million doses. Officials in the United States and the European Union said the request had been denied.

Noah Weiland contributed reporting from Washington.

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E.U. Pushes Companies to Close Gender Pay Gap

BRUSSELS — Pushing member states to address salary disparities between men and women, the European Union revealed details on Thursday of a proposed law that would require companies to divulge gender pay gaps and give job candidates access to salary information in employment interviews. It also would provide women with better tools to fight for equal pay.

The move comes as female workers across the world have been disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, and it could lead to sanctions on companies that do not comply.

The proposed law would also empower women to verify if they are being fairly compensated in comparison with male colleagues. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to provide workers with the ability to seek proper compensation in case of discrimination.

Under the proposed law, those who believe they are victims could take action through independent monitors of compliance with the equal-pay requirement. They could also press gender-based pay grievances through workers’ representatives, either as individuals or in groups.

European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than male ones.

Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, for more than 60 years it seemed out of reach for women across the bloc, which presents itself as the beacon of human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on pay transparency.

The proposed E.U.-wide law requires approval by member countries and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it might be blocked by national governments, as happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on management boards. Wary of these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values and transparency, called the proposal on pay “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations,” underlining that gender equality at work benefited businesses.

2020 Women in Work Index, compiled annually across 33 developed countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, economic damage from the pandemic, as well as repercussions from government policies, is disproportionately affecting women. This has reversed the steady trend of gains for women in employment and has led to what the consultancy calls a “shecession.”

Women’s rights groups welcomed the commission’s initiative. “Information is power: pay transparency would enable employees to know the value of their work and negotiate salaries accordingly,” said Carlien Scheele, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality. “This would help tackle discrimination in the workplace, which can only be a boon for gender equality.”

Employers, aware of the proposal’s possible legal and economic repercussions, were careful in their assessment, blaming what they described as deep underlying reasons for gender inequalities.

“Reasonable requirements on pay transparency can be part of the answer,” said Markus J. Beyrer, head of BusinessEurope, a lobbying group. “However, the key to improve gender equality is to address the root causes of inequalities, especially gender stereotypes, labor market segregation and insufficient provision of child care.”

Mr. Beyrer said the commission must respect “national social partners’ competences” and should not “complicate human resources management with excessive administrative burdens and open the way to undue litigation.”

According to Ms. Jourova, “binding rules” are required, not just reliance on the social responsibility undertaken by companies. “We see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.

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