AstraZeneca Vaccine Faces New Setbacks in U.K. and European Union

LONDON — Britain said on Wednesday that it would curb the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in adults under 30 because of the risk of rare blood clots, a blow to the efforts of scores of countries reliant on the vaccine to stamp out the coronavirus pandemic amid a global surge in cases.

Adding to the unease, the European Medicines Agency outlined a “possible link” between the vaccine and rare clots, even as it said that Covid-19 remained the far greater threat, leaving decisions about how to use the vaccine in the hands of the 27 member states of the European Union.

Taken together, the decisions represented a considerable setback for the AstraZeneca shot, which has been seen as the principal weapon in the battle to reduce deaths in the vaccine-starved global south.

The world’s most widely administered coronavirus vaccine, it is far less expensive and easier to store than some of the alternatives, spurring its use in at least 111 countries, rich and poor. AstraZeneca, based in Britain, has promised to deliver three billion doses this year, enough to inoculate nearly one in five people worldwide.

Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have already delayed injections of AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid mounting concerns in Europe. Any further hesitation, scientists said, could cost lives.

“In developing countries, the dynamic is to either use the vaccine you have, or you have nothing,” said Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London. “In which case, carnage ensues.”

For the vast majority of people, British and European regulators said on Wednesday, the benefits of AstraZeneca’s shot far outweigh the risks. The clotting problems were appearing at a rate of roughly one in 100,000 recipients across Europe. Meanwhile, in Britain, the vaccine has driven down hospitalizations from Covid-19 — which can, itself, cause serious clotting problems — and saved thousands of lives, regulators said.

most people doubted the vaccine’s safety.

Over all, use of the shot has suffered: Across Europe, 64 percent of delivered doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been injected into people’s arms, markedly lower than the rates for other shots.

“One hoped there would have been collaboration, and more discussion, between regulators, instead of lots of different countries going off in all sorts of directions,” Professor Ward said. “That aspect has really been the most unhelpful.”

watch for certain symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches and tiny blood spots under the skin. Doctors’ groups have circulated guidance about how to treat the disorder.

As of March 22, regulators had carried out detailed review of 86 cases, 18 of which were fatal, they said.

Concerns about the shot became acute enough in Britain this week that the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca, stopped giving doses as part of a two-month-old trial in children.

“Safety has been our priority throughout the development of the vaccine,” Andrew Pollard, the Oxford researcher in charge of the trials, said on Wednesday. The identification of the clots, he added, “shows that the safety system works.”

In the United States, AstraZeneca is preparing to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. If and when they take up the application, that agency’s regulators are expected to scrutinize the clotting cases.

The United States, flush with vaccines from three other makers, may not ultimately need AstraZeneca’s shot. But any ruling by the F.D.A. is expected to hold considerable weight in some of the poorer nations that are relying on the shot.

The World Health Organization said a vaccine safety subcommittee had met on Wednesday and noted that “rare adverse events following immunizations should be assessed against the risk of deaths from Covid-19 disease and the potential of the vaccines to prevent infections.” It said that a link with the clotting problems, while “plausible,” had not been confirmed.

For Britain, the AstraZeneca vaccine has become a huge source of national pride, and the backbone of the country’s speedy inoculation program.

Even if younger people are at lower risk from severe Covid-19, scientists have said, inoculating them remains essential to creating enough protection in the population to end the pandemic.

Emma Bubola, Monika Pronczuk and Rebecca Robbins contributed reporting.

View Source

AstraZeneca Vaccine Faces Setbacks in U.K. and European Union

LONDON — Britain said on Wednesday that it would curb the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in adults under 30 because of the risk of rare blood clots, a blow to the efforts of scores of countries reliant on the vaccine to stamp out the coronavirus pandemic amid a global surge in cases.

Adding to the unease, the European Medicines Agency outlined a “possible link” between the vaccine and rare clots, even as it said that Covid-19 remained the far greater threat, leaving decisions about how to use the vaccine in the hands of the 27 member states of the European Union.

Taken together, the decisions represented a considerable setback for the AstraZeneca shot, which has been seen as the principal weapon in the battle to reduce deaths in the vaccine-starved global south.

The world’s most widely administered coronavirus vaccine, it is far less expensive and easier to store than some of the alternatives, spurring its use in at least 111 countries, rich and poor. AstraZeneca, based in Britain, has promised to deliver three billion doses this year, enough to inoculate nearly one in five people worldwide.

Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo have already delayed injections of AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid mounting concerns in Europe. Any further hesitation, scientists said, could cost lives.

“In developing countries, the dynamic is to either use the vaccine you have, or you have nothing,” said Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London. “In which case, carnage ensues.”

For the vast majority of people, British and European regulators said on Wednesday, the benefits of AstraZeneca’s shot far outweigh the risks. The clotting problems were appearing at a rate of roughly one in 100,000 recipients across Europe. Meanwhile, in Britain, the vaccine has driven down hospitalizations from Covid-19 — which can, itself, cause serious clotting problems — and saved thousands of lives, regulators said.

most people doubted the vaccine’s safety.

Over all, use of the shot has suffered: Across Europe, 64 percent of delivered doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine have been injected into people’s arms, markedly lower than the rates for other shots.

“One hoped there would have been collaboration, and more discussion, between regulators, instead of lots of different countries going off in all sorts of directions,” Professor Ward said. “That aspect has really been the most unhelpful.”

watch for certain symptoms, including severe and persistent headaches and tiny blood spots under the skin. Doctors’ groups have circulated guidance about how to treat the disorder.

As of March 22, regulators had carried out detailed review of 86 cases, 18 of which were fatal, they said.

Concerns about the shot became acute enough in Britain this week that the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca, stopped giving doses as part of a two-month-old trial in children.

“Safety has been our priority throughout the development of the vaccine,” Andrew Pollard, the Oxford researcher in charge of the trials, said on Wednesday. The identification of the clots, he added, “shows that the safety system works.”

In the United States, AstraZeneca is preparing to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. If and when they take up the application, that agency’s regulators are expected to scrutinize the clotting cases.

The United States, flush with vaccines from three other makers, may not ultimately need AstraZeneca’s shot. But any ruling by the F.D.A. is expected to hold considerable weight in some of the poorer nations that are relying on the shot.

The World Health Organization said a vaccine safety subcommittee had met on Wednesday and noted that “rare adverse events following immunizations should be assessed against the risk of deaths from Covid-19 disease and the potential of the vaccines to prevent infections.” It said that a link with the clotting problems, while “plausible,” had not been confirmed.

For Britain, the AstraZeneca vaccine has become a huge source of national pride, and the backbone of the country’s speedy inoculation program.

Even if younger people are at lower risk from severe Covid-19, scientists have said, inoculating them remains essential to creating enough protection in the population to end the pandemic.

Emma Bubola, Monika Pronczuk and Rebecca Robbins contributed reporting.

View Source

Possible Side Effects of AstraZeneca Vaccine Come Into Sharper Focus

LONDON — For months, European countries have seesawed between craving and rebuffing AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with the shot’s fortunes rising and falling on spats over supply and on questions over the efficacy of the vaccine itself.

But few concerns have proved as disruptive to the rollout of the world’s workhorse vaccine in Europe as reports of very rare blood clots in some recipients. Many countries responded by halting the shot’s use, only to start giving it again after an all-clear from regulators at the European Medicines Agency, and then stopped inoculations a second time in certain age groups after doctors became more concerned about the clots.

On Tuesday, those concerns were reinforced yet again when a top vaccines official at the European Medicines Agency said that the vaccine was linked to extremely rare, though sometimes fatal, blood clots in a small number of recipients. It was the first indication from an international regulatory body that the clots may be a real, if very unusual, side effect of the shot.

Regulators now appear to be considering issuing their first formal warnings about the potential side effects — not only in continental Europe, which has long been wary of the shot for political and scientific reasons, but also in Britain, the birthplace of the AstraZeneca vaccine and long its biggest champion, where new data have sown concerns as well.

speedy inoculation program, have also insisted that the vaccine’s benefits far outweighed the risks. They and the company cited a lack of evidence in Britain that the clotting events were any more common than would be expected among people who had never been given AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

But the evidence changed last week when Britain reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots, 25 more than previously. This week, a prominent scientific adviser to the British government said there was “increasing evidence” of the clots being associated with the vaccine.

regulators reported 30 cases of the rare blood clots combined with low platelets among 18 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine. That translated to roughly one case in 600,000 recipients of the vaccine.

European countries’ divergent approaches to the vaccine stem from a number of factors, including the supply of vaccines and severity of the pandemic. Marco Cavaleri, the official at the European Medicines Agency who spoke about the link between the vaccine and blood clots, said on Tuesday that those factors would likely continue to dictate how countries used the shot.

Beyond those factors, countries also took very different approaches to managing risk, scientists said. Countries that have continued using the shot were more focused on securing the overall health of their citizens. Others were more preoccupied with minimizing the risk to any single person.

“The attitude here is more, ‘Get me out of the pandemic,’” said Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London, referring to the British approach. In continental Europe, she said, “There seems to be a much higher emphasis on individual safety in the population.”

Adriano Mannino, a philosopher at the University of Munich and director of the Solon Center for Policy Innovation in Germany, said that the collective benefits of the vaccine dominated thinking in Britain, while Germans were more concerned with the risk of an injection going wrong in individual cases. That reflected, partly, Germany’s history with the Nazis, who conducted lethal experiments on people.

“In many areas where law has to regulate ethically delicate and potentially dangerous things,” he said, “the German state has tended to go for tough restrictions.”

Nevertheless, Germans over 60 — the age group still being given AstraZeneca’s vaccine — flooded hotlines to book appointments and stood in line for hours in recent days as eligibility restrictions for their age group were relaxed.

In the northeastern city of Wismar, several hundred people waited for up to five hours on Tuesday in a driving wind and mix of rain and snow to receive the shot.

“I wish there had been better weather,” Kerstin Weiss, the head of the district authority in the northeastern region, told public broadcaster NDR. “But honestly, this is a sign that people are willing to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca.”

Benjamin Mueller reported from London and Melissa Eddy from Berlin. Monika Pronczuk and Emma Bubola contributed reporting.

View Source

Virus Variants Threaten to Draw Out the Pandemic, Scientists Say

For weeks, the mood in much of the United States has been buoyant. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus have fallen steeply from their highs, and millions of people are being newly vaccinated every day. Restaurants, shops and schools have reopened. Some states, like Texas and Florida, have abandoned precautions altogether.

In measurable ways, Americans are winning the war against the coronavirus. Powerful vaccines and an accelerating rollout all but guarantee an eventual return to normalcy — to backyard barbecues, summer camps and sleepovers.

But it is increasingly clear that the next few months will be painful. So-called variants are spreading, carrying mutations that make the coronavirus both more contagious and in some cases more deadly.

Even as vaccines were authorized late last year, illuminating a path to the pandemic’s end, variants were trouncing Britain, South Africa and Brazil. New variants have continued to pop up — in California one week, in New York and Oregon the next. As they take root, these new versions of the coronavirus threaten to postpone an end to the pandemic.

rising exponentially in the United States.

Limited genetic testing has turned up more than 12,500 cases, many in Florida and Michigan. As of March 13, the variant accounted for about 27 percent of new cases nationwide, up from just 1 percent in early February.

pledged a “down payment” of $200 million to ramp up surveillance, an infusion intended to make it possible to analyze 25,000 patient samples each week for virus variants. It’s an ambitious goal: The country was sequencing just a few hundred samples each week in December, then scaling up to about 9,000 per week as of March 27.

Until recently, B.1.1.7’s rise was camouflaged by falling rates of infection over all, lulling Americans into a false sense of security and leading to prematurely relaxed restrictions, researchers say.

“The best way to think about B.1.1.7 and other variants is to treat them as separate epidemics,” said Sebastian Funk, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “We’re really kind of obscuring the view by adding them all up to give an overall number of cases.”

Other variants identified in South Africa and Brazil, as well as some virus versions first seen in the United States, have been slower to spread. But they, too, are worrisome, because they contain a mutation that diminishes the vaccines’ effectiveness. Just this week, an outbreak of P.1, the variant that crushed Brazil, forced a shutdown of the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort in British Columbia.

as fast as possible.

Infections are rising again, driven to an uncertain degree by B.1.1.7 and other variants. Earlier this week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pleaded with Americans to continue to practice masking and social distancing, saying she felt a sense of “impending doom.”

60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the virus, according to the most recent estimates.

The variant is no different from the original in how it spreads, but infected people seem to carry more of the virus and for longer, said Katrina Lythgoe, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford. “You’re more infectious for more days,” she said.

So contagious is B.1.1.7 that Britain succeeded in driving down infections only after nearly three months of strict stay-at-home orders, plus an aggressive vaccination program. Even so, cases fell much more slowly than they did during a similar lockdown in March and April.

three-quarters of new infections, some hospitals have had to move coronavirus patients to Belgium to free up beds. Roughly as many people are dying each day from Covid-19 in Europe as were this time a year ago.

For too long, government officials disregarded the threat. “Case plateaus can hide the emergence of new variants,” said Carl Pearson, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “And the higher those plateaus are, the worse the problem is.”

In the United States, coronavirus infections began a rapid decline in January, soon prompting many state leaders to reopen businesses and ease restrictions. But scientists repeatedly warned that the drop would not last. After the rate bottomed out at about 55,000 cases and 1,500 deaths per day in mid-March, some states — notably Michigan — began seeing an uptick.

Since then, the national numbers have steadily risen. As of Saturday, the daily count was up to nearly 69,000, and the weekly average was 19 percent higher than the figure two weeks earlier.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines seem to be slightly less effective against B.1.351, the variant identified in South Africa. That variant contains the Eek mutation, which seems to enable the virus to partly sidestep the body’s immune response. The vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax were even less potent against B.1.351.

“I think for the next year or two, E484K will be the most concerning” mutation, said Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

The mutation slightly alters the so-called spike protein sitting on the surface of the coronavirus, making it just a bit harder for antibodies to latch on and destroy the invader.

The good news is that the virus seems to have just a few survival tricks in its bag, and that makes it easier for scientists to find and block those defenses. “I’m feeling pretty good about the fact that there aren’t that many choices,” said Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York.

The Eek mutation seems to be the virus’s primary defense against the immune system. Researchers in South Africa recently reported that a new vaccine directed against B.1.351 ought to fend off all other variants, as well.

Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna already are testing newly designed booster shots against B.1.351 that should work against any variants known to blunt the immune response.

Instead of a new vaccine against variants, however, it may be just as effective for Americans to receive a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna vaccines in six months to a year, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That would keep antibody levels high in each recipient, overwhelming any variant — a more practical strategy than making a specialized vaccine for each new variant that emerges, he said.

“My only concern about chasing all the variants is that you’d almost be playing Whac-A-Mole, you know, because they’ll keep coming up and keep coming up,” Dr. Fauci said.

In one form or another, the new coronavirus is here to stay, many scientists believe. Multiple variants may be circulating in the country at the same time, as is the case for common cold coronaviruses and influenza. Keeping them at bay may require an annual shot, like the flu vaccine.

The best way to deter the emergence of dangerous variants is to keep cases down now and to immunize the vast majority of the world — not just the United States — as quickly as possible. If significant pockets of the globe remain unprotected, the virus will continue to evolve in dangerous new ways.

“This might be something that we have to deal with for a long time,” said Rosalind Eggo, an epidemiologist at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Still, she added, “Even if it changes again, which it is very likely to do, we are in a better, much stronger position than a year ago to deal with it.”

View Source

Famine Stalks Yemen, as War Drags On and Foreign Aid Wanes

“Cutting aid is a death sentence,” the U.N. secretary-general, António Guterres, said of the outcome.

Rafat al-Akhali, a fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University who studies Yemen, said that frustration with the lack of progress toward ending the war, questions about the efficacy of the United Nations and concerns about Houthi interference with aid delivery had all contributed to reduced donations.

Although foreign aid can help Yemeni families avoid catastrophe, he said, but only an end to the war can ease Yemen’s many crises.

“The real solution is for the conflict to stop and for some semblance of normality to be restored, but without that what are you left with other than aid coming in from U.N. agencies or an injection of cash?” he said.

In another rural clinic near the town of Qaflat Athr, also north of Sana, Amna Hussein, 15 months old, lay weakened by diarrhea and vomiting linked to malnutrition. She had been treated in the same clinic last year and had improved, her mother said, and they had returned each week for nutritional supplements to keep her healthy. But last month, because of funding cuts, the supplements ran out and now Amna was back in the clinic.

Her mother, who declined to give her name because of shame, said that she and her four daughters had left her husband and moved in with her brothers, who had barely enough to feed them.

“We are like refugees in other people’s home,” she said. “You can only appreciate whatever is provided.”

Shuaib Almosawa reported from Al Harf, Yemen, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon. Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

View Source

Russia Trumpets Coronavirus Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V to a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

View Source

Russia Trumpets Vaccine Exports, While Quietly Importing Doses

MOSCOW — Russia has lauded with much fanfare the arrival of its homegrown vaccine, Sputnik V, in Latin America and Africa, and even in some countries in Europe, calling it a solution to shortages around the world.

It has been less vocal, though, about one country that is also importing the vaccine: Russia.

The Russian government has contracted out the manufacture of Sputnik V from a South Korean company that has already sent the vaccine to Russia, and plans to do the same with a company from India.

While the scale of the imports are impossible to gauge because of nondisclosure agreements, they undermine some of the narrative Russia has proudly presented about its role in the pandemic as an exporter of vaccines to needy countries.

The imports, which are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and months, could help Russia overcome a dismally slow vaccination rollout at home. They also illustrate that even countries whose scientists designed successful shots rely on cross border trade for vaccine supplies.

said last fall that overseas manufacturing could partly meet demand at home, but have since gone quiet about importing a product that has been held up as a triumph of the country’s scientists. Manufacturing the vaccine in Russia, however, has been a different story.

Russia received two cargo planes loaded with Sputnik V from the South Korean manufacturer, GL Rapha, in December and the company expects to send another shipment in coming days. Indian vaccine makers are also expected to export the Russian-designed vaccine to Russia, according to Indian diplomats.

“We face the prospect of increasing this cooperation in the field of vaccines,” India’s ambassador to Russia, Shri Varma, said at a news conference in January. “We envisage a major rolling out of Sputnik vaccine in India, using the Indian production capacities for India, for Russia and for the entire world.”

Russia has four production deals in India. One Indian company, Virchow Biotech in Hyderabad, India, last week signed a manufacturing deal with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to make 200 million doses a year of Sputnik V.

struggled for months last fall to obtain biotechnology equipment that is made in China, and was in short supply.

said that enough Sputnik V to fully inoculate 8.9 million people had been distributed in Russia since regulators approved the drug last August. Russia’s minister of industry said Monday he expected a quick ramp-up by April to twice that amount every month.

Russia’s vaccination campaign has fallen far behind that of most European nations and the United States. Russia has vaccinated 4.4 percent of its population, compared to 10 percent in the European Union and 26 percent in the United States.

The Kremlin this past week for the first time acknowledged that scarcity of the vaccine played a role in Mr. Putin’s decision to delay his own inoculation to avoid stimulating demand for shots before they became widely available outside the capital.

In January, when Mr. Putin became eligible for a shot under Russian rules based on his age, “production was not yet sufficient to fully meet demand in the regions,” said his spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov.

It’s not clear how large a role the imports will play in alleviating scarcity, accelerating vaccinations and saving lives in Russia. But it positions Russia lower in the pecking order of vaccine geopolitics, as an importer rather than just an exporter.

Russian officials have chosen to highlight exports, however. “A vaccine for all humankind,” the Sputnik V website declares. State media has lavished attention on even relatively small shipments of tens or hundreds of thousands of doses to foreign countries.

held back from export nearly all of the 2.4 million doses manufactured by a private company, the Serum Institute of India, as the number of infections from the coronavirus shot up across the country. The European Union also moved on emergency legislation to curb vaccine exports, a change that could limit British imports of the AstraZeneca vaccine designed at Oxford University from producers in the bloc.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said it was the “the end of naïveté” for the European Union, which has significant production capacity but had been exporting doses despite rapidly rising cases within the bloc.

The United States and Britain have both imported domestically designed vaccines made in foreign countries. The United States has done so while prohibiting some exports of U.S.-made doses abroad.

Russia imported the South Korean-produced Sputnik V in December as it expanded the categories of people eligible for vaccination. The doses arrived in two Asiana Airlines cargo planes, according to an announcement by the airline, which was touting its cold shipment service.

In written answers to questions, GL Rapha, the Korean manufacturer, said it could not discuss shipments because of the nondisclosure agreement.

The company said it expects to produce 150 million doses of Sputnik V this year. The Russian Direct Investment Fund did not respond to questions about imports to Russia.

Oleg Matsnev contributed research.

View Source

In Suez Canal, Stuck Ship Is a Warning About Excessive Globalization

LONDON — The world got another warning this week about the perils of its heavy reliance on global supply chains. As a single ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, shutting down traffic in both directions, international commerce confronted a monumental traffic jam with potentially grave consequences.

The troubled craft is not just any vessel. The Ever Given is one of the world’s largest container ships, with space for 20,000 metal boxes carrying goods across the sea. And the Suez Canal is not just any waterway. It is a vital channel linking the factories of Asia to the affluent customers of Europe, as well as a major conduit for oil.

The fact that one mishap could sow fresh chaos from Los Angeles to Rotterdam to Shanghai underscored the extent to which modern commerce has come to revolve around truly global supply chains.

In recent decades, management experts and consulting firms have championed so-called just-in-time manufacturing to limit costs and boost profits. Rather than waste money stockpiling extra goods in warehouses, companies can depend on the magic of the internet and the global shipping industry to summon what they need as they need it.

letter to all employees last March. “Masks remain in short supply globally.”

energy prices rose on Wednesday, though they pulled back on Thursday. Some are carrying electronics, and clothing, and exercise equipment.

None of them are getting where they are supposed to until the waylaid ship is freed. Each day the stalemate continues holds up goods worth $9.6 billion, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

shipping industry, which has been overwhelmed by the pandemic and its reordering of world trade.

As Americans have contended with lockdowns, they have ordered vast quantities of factory goods from Asia: exercise bikes to compensate for the closure of gyms; printers and computer monitors to turn bedrooms into offices; baking equipment and toys to entertain children cooped up at home.

The surge of orders has exhausted the supply of containers at ports in China. The cost of shipping a container from Asia to North America has more than doubled since November. And at ports from Los Angeles to Seattle, the unloading of those containers has been slowed as dockworkers and truck drivers have been struck by Covid-19 or forced to stay home to attend to children who are out of school.

Delays in unloading spell delays in loading the next shipment. Agricultural exporters in the American Midwest have struggled to secure containers to send soybeans and grains to food processors and animal feed suppliers in Southeast Asia.

This situation has held for four months, while showing few signs of easing. Retailers in North America have been frantically restocking depleted inventories, putting a strain on shipping companies in what is normally the slack season on trans-Pacific routes.

The blockage of the Suez Canal effectively sidelines more containers. The question is how long this lasts.

Two weeks could strand as much as one-fourth of the supply of containers that would normally be in European ports, estimated Christian Roeloffs, chief executive officer of xChange, a shipping consultant in Hamburg, Germany.

“Considering the current container shortage, it just increases the turnaround time for the ships,” Mr. Roeloffs said.

Three-fourths of all container ships traveling from Asia to Europe arrived late in February, according to Sea-Intelligence, a research company in Copenhagen. Even a few days of disruption in the Suez could exacerbate that situation.

If the Suez remains clogged for more than a few days, the stakes would rise drastically. Ships now stuck in the canal will find it difficult to turn around and pursue other routes given the narrowness of the channel.

Those now en route to the Suez may opt to head south and navigate around Africa, adding weeks to their journeys and burning additional fuel — a cost ultimately borne by consumers.

Whenever ships again move through the canal, they are likely to arrive at busy ports all at once, forcing many to wait before they can unload — an additional delay.

“This could make a really bad crisis even worse,” said Alan Murphy, the founder of Sea-Intelligence.

View Source