LONDON — In the five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and their allies began an economic counteroffensive that has cut off Russia’s access to hundreds of billions of dollars of its own money and halted a large chunk of its international commerce. More than 1,000 companies, organizations and individuals, including members of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, have been sanctioned and relegated to a financial limbo.
But Mr. Putin reminded the world this past week that he has economic weapons of his own that he could use to inflict some pain or fend off attacks.
Through a series of aggressive measures taken by the Russian government and its central bank, the ruble, which had lost nearly half of its value, clawed its way back to near where it was before the invasion.
And then there was the threat to stop the flow of gas from Russia to Europe — which was set off by Mr. Putin’s demand that 48 “unfriendly countries” violate their own sanctions and pay for natural gas in rubles. It sent leaders in the capitals of Germany, Italy and other allied nations scrambling and showcased in the most visible way since the war began how much they need Russian energy to power their economies.
Russian oil exports normally represent more than one of every 10 barrels the world consumes.
Europe’s ongoing energy purchases send as much as $850 million each day into Russia’s coffers, according to Bruegel, an economics institute in Brussels. That money helps Russia to fund its war efforts and blunts the impact of sanctions. Because of soaring energy prices, gas export revenues from Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, injected $9.3 billion into the country’s economy in March alone, according an estimate by Oxford Economics, a global advisory firm.
Ursula von der Leyen, said as much when she announced the new energy plan last month: “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”
Security concerns aren’t the only development that has undermined Russia’s standing as a long-term energy supplier. What seemed surprising to economists, lawyers and policymakers about Mr. Putin’s demand to be paid in rubles was that it would have violated sacrosanct negotiated contracts and revealed Russia’s willingness to be an unreliable business partner.
As he has tried to wield his energy clout externally, Mr. Putin has taken steps to insulate Russia’s economy from the impact of sanctions and to prop up the ruble. Few things can undermine a country as systemically as an abruptly weakened currency.
The Russia-Ukraine War and the Global Economy
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Shortages of essential metals. The price of palladium, used in automotive exhaust systems and mobile phones, has been soaring amid fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, another key Russian export, has also been rising.
Financial turmoil. Global banks are bracing for the effects of sanctions intended to restrict Russia’s access to foreign capital and limit its ability to process payments in dollars, euros and other currencies crucial for trade. Banks are also on alert for retaliatory cyberattacks by Russia.
When the allies froze the assets of the Russian central bank and sent the ruble into a downward spiral, the bank increased the interest rate to 20 percent, while the government mandated that companies convert 80 percent of the dollars, euros and other foreign currencies they earn into rubles to increase demand and drive up the price.
S&P Global survey of purchasing managers at Russian manufacturing companies showed severe declines in production, employment and new orders in March, as well as sharp price increases.
500 foreign companies have pulled up stakes in Russia, scaled back operations and investment, or pledged to do so.
“Russia does not have the capabilities to replicate domestically the technology that it would otherwise have gained from overseas,” according to an analysis by Capital Economics, a research group based in London. That is not a good sign for increasing productivity, which even before the war, was only 35 to 40 percent of the United States’.
The result is that however the war in Ukraine ends, Russia will be more economically isolated than it has been in decades, diminishing whatever leverage it now has over the global economy as well as its own economic prospects.
BRUSSELS — Under growing pressure, the European Union is considering whether to follow the Biden administration’s decision to support a waiver of patent rights for Covid-19 vaccines as many poor and middle-income nations struggle to secure lifesaving doses.
The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, stopped short of outright supporting President Biden’s decision in a speech on Thursday morning, but said the European Union was “also ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner.”
“That is why we are ready to discuss how the U.S. proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective,” she said, speaking at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy. “In the short run, however, we call upon all vaccine-producing countries to allow export and to avoid measures that disrupt the supply chains.”
Her comments mark a shift, as she has previously said she did not support patent waivers.
The United States had been a major holdout at the World Trade Organization over a proposal to suspend some intellectual property protections, which could give drugmakers access to the trade secrets of how the vaccines are made. But President Biden had come under increasing pressure to support the proposal, which was drafted by India and South Africa.
India and South America.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said in a statement. “The administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for Covid-19 vaccines.”
Any proposal on waiving patents would require unanimous approval by W.T.O. members, so European Union support isnecessary. But even if the proposal passes, it could make little difference to vaccine availability in the short run.
Eighty-three percent of shots that have been administered worldwide have been in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Just 0.2 percent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. In North America, 48 out of 100 adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine; the figure is 31 per 100 adults in Europe. In Africa, it is 1.3, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
Ms. von der Leyen on Thursday once again stated the European Union’s belief that “no one is safe until everyone is safe” in the fight against the pandemic.
That notion, she said, was as true for the continent of Europe as it was for the world. She said she could not imagine what it would have meant if some countries in the European Union secured vaccines while others went without.
“Economically it would have made no sense whatsoever with such an integrated single market,” she said. “And politically it would have torn our union apart.”
an interview with The Times in which she previewed the Pfizer-BioNTech deal last month, she came out strongly against vaccine patent sharing.
“I am not at all a friend of releasing patents,” Ms. von der Leyen said, advancing a common argument among pharmaceutical executives that private enterprise was in part responsible for the innovation that spurred the speedy development of Covid-19 vaccines. “Therefore, you need this private-sector ingenuity behind it,” she added.
BRUSSELS — The European Union took a crucial step on Monday toward reopening its borders to vaccinated travelers after the bloc’s executive released a plan for allowing journeys to resume after more than a year of stringent coronavirus restrictions.
The European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, proposed that the 27 member countries reopen their borders to all travelers who have been fully vaccinated with shots approved by the bloc’s medicine regulator or by the World Health Organization. The commission also outlined other, looser, pandemic-related conditions that should permit people to travel.
The proposal would see more regular travel to the bloc gradually restart in time for the summer tourism season, which provides economic lifeblood for several member states. The plans are an important moment in Europe’s efforts to return to a semblance of normalcy after more than a year of strict limitations.
Travel from outside the bloc was halted almost entirely last spring and only restored tentatively for a handful of exceptions last summer. The measures separated families, hobbled the tourism and aviation sectors and brought business travel to an almost total halt.
interview with The New York Times last month, during which she said that vaccinated Americans should be able to visit Europe this summer. The detailed proposal laid out on Monday also confirmed Ms. von der Leyen’s earlier statements about the important role that the mutual recognition of vaccination certificates will play in resuming international travel.
To pass, the proposal released on Monday will require the backing of a reinforced majority of member states, which it is likely to receive late this month or in early June. Still, individual member countries retain a good deal of sovereignty around health policy, so each state will probably use that leeway to tailor the travel measures further.
For example, some countries that greatly depend on visitors for income and jobs, such as Greece and Spain, have already moved to reopen borders even before the European Union adopts any new, bloc-wide policy. Others, especially in the continent’s north, could maintain more stringent regulations because they don’t stand to gain as much from loosened travel rules for the summer.
Given those likely differences, the commission’s proposal comes in part to prevent a totally uncoordinated approach to travelers from outside the bloc.
“digital green pass” for inoculated citizens (and has contracted companies including the logistics giant SAP to digitize vaccine cards), the United States and other countries are further behind and as yet do not offer uniform, verifiable vaccine certificates. The European Union and the United States have been involved in technical discussions on how to ensure American certificates are verifiable and acceptable in the bloc, officials said.
Addressing some major questions that aspiring visitors have raised in recent weeks, the commission said that children would not need to be vaccinated to travel to the bloc but that they could be required to show a negative test.
British visitors to the European Union, a big pool of tourists, could be counted among those able to travel more freely given the fast advancement of vaccination there. But the European Union is not yet in touch with British officials over the question of mutually recognizable vaccine certification, officials said.
BRUSSELS — The European Parliament has voted by a large margin, in results released Wednesday morning, to give the European Union’s final approval to a Brexit deal already beset by difficulties, complaints and a court challenge.
The vote was 660 in favor, with five against and 32 abstentions.
While the outcome was never really in doubt, the Parliament expressed considerable concerns about the trustworthiness of the current British government to carry out in good faith the two key documents of Brexit: the Withdrawal Agreement and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was just approved.
The latter agreement, which governs trade and customs issues and provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas, has been applied conditionally since the beginning of the year. It was finished on Christmas Eve and was ratified by the British Parliament on Dec. 30. But a negative vote by the European Parliament would have killed it, producing the “no deal Brexit” that neither side favored.
The European Parliament had delayed its vote to protest Britain’s handling of Northern Ireland and the protocol that governs trade on the divided island. Britain’s actions are the source of a legal complaint filed by the European Commission, the executive branch of the bloc, after Britain unilaterally extended grace periods for not conducting checks on goods being transported between Northern Ireland and the rest of Britain.
put it bluntly on Twitter. “We will vote in favor of the post-Brexit T.C.A.,” he wrote referring to the trade agreement. “But we are concerned about its implementation, because we do not trust Boris Johnson’s government.”
There were numerous worries expressed about Britain misusing or undermining the complicated arrangements on fishing rights as well as the Northern Ireland protocol.
David McAllister, a German legislator who is half Scottish, said some of the problems encountered so far were from teething issues, but some derived from “the kind of Brexit the U.K. has chosen for itself,” which will mean increasing divergence from the European Union single market. That by itself will require continuing discussion, he said, as well as working through areas left out of the Brexit deal, including financial services and foreign and security policies.
Brussels was committed to work on practical solutions between Northern Ireland, Ireland and mainland Britain, he said. “But the protocol is not the problem, it is the solution. The name of the problem is Brexit.”
Asking the Parliament to ratify the deal, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, promised that Brussels would use the dispute and enforcement mechanisms in the deal to ensure compliance by Britain. If Britain failed to honor its commitments, she said, she would not hesitate to impose punitive tariffs.
“The agreement comes with real teeth — with a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for unilateral remedial measures where necessary,” she said. “We do not want to have to use these tools. But we will not hesitate to use them if necessary.”
Britain voted to leave the European Union nearly five years ago, in a referendum in June 2016. The complications of Brexit, and the continuing struggles over its implementation, have served if nothing else to end talk in the rest of the European Union about making a similar exit.
BRUSSELS — It was February and things were going from bad to worse for the European Union’s vaccination campaign, and for its top executive, Ursula von der Leyen.
Much of Europe was in lockdown, people were dying and the bloc was running low on doses of vaccines after its biggest supplier, AstraZeneca, announced production problems. Critics inside and outside the European Union questioned Ms. von der Leyen’s leadership and accused her of mishandling the crisis.
It was at that low point that she caught a break.
For a month, Ms. von der Leyen had been exchanging texts and calls with Albert Bourla, the chief executive of Pfizer, another vaccine supplier to the bloc. And as they spoke, two things became clear: Pfizer might have more doses it could offer the bloc — many more. And the European Union would be thrilled to have them.
That personal diplomacy played a big role in a deal, to be finalized this week, in which the European Union will lock in 1.8 billion doses from Pfizer, which, with its smaller German partner, BioNTech, made the first Covid-19 vaccine to get regulatory approval in the European Union.
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suing over the missed doses — and has moved forward its target date for getting 70 percent of its adults fully immunized. It is now July, instead of September.
The bloc is already one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of Covid-19 vaccines, with just over 159 million doses shipped to 87 countries since December. That is almost exactly as many as it has kept at home to immunize its own people.
The agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech will stipulate that the shots be produced in Europe, bringing home not just the finished product, but also most of the 280 components that go into making it, Ms. von der Leyen and Mr. Bourla of Pfizer said.
The contract will also allow for a range of different vaccine products.
An internal European Commission assessment of the bloc’s needs over the next two years, which is still being reviewed and was seen by The Times, lays out ballpark figures for how many doses might be necessary under different scenarios. According to the draft assessment, the bloc might require up to 510 million booster doses in 2022 and 2023.
Mr. Bourla said he expected a booster would be needed six to twelve months after people get their second shot, although some public health experts note that it is not clear yet whether that will be necessary. And the assessment includes a worst-case scenario for a new vaccine to target an “escape mutant,” a variant of the coronavirus that is too resistant to existing shots. The draft says the European Union would require 640 million doses of this type of vaccine for two doses per adult. And it puts the number of pediatric vaccines at 130 million for 2022 and 65 million for 2023.
The deal is not without risks, or critics. Countries and experts worry that the European Union may be becoming too dependent on Pfizer, and failing to hedge its bets in the event of problems with the vaccine or its production.
“I would caution against going for Pfizer/BioNTech only,” said Prof. Peter Piot, a microbiologist who advises Ms. von der Leyen. “That is too high risk for me, scientifically,” he said, though he noted that mRNA technology vaccines like Pfizer’s have so far been working well.
Of the new E.U. deal with Pfizer, Professor Piot said, “My interpretation is, what works is who can deliver.”
Ms. von der Leyen said the European Union could still procure doses from other companies.
She said the bloc was following the development of protein-based vaccines made by Novavax and Sanofi, as well as mRNA vaccines from Moderna, which are already being used in Europe, and CureVac, which is under review by the E.U. regulator. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was rolled out in Europe this month, is also attractive because of its single-dose regimen and easy storage, she said.
The Pfizer shot is also expensive. While the financial details of the new agreement have not been disclosed, the previous contract priced the shot at approximately 15.5 euros, or about 19 dollars, making it the second-most expensive vaccine in the region after Moderna.
European Union members will each decide whether they want to use their full allocations of doses, or leave some for others to absorb, or to be resold or donated. They will also be free to make bilateral agreements with other pharmaceutical companies for vaccines in the future.
The new contract does little to address mounting global calls for the release of patents or for technology transfers to ensure that more of the world gets vaccinated soon. With India in the throes of a catastrophic wave of the virus, and the majority of the world’s population still far from getting access to a first dose of any vaccine, Europe’s talk of doses for children and boosters seems out of step with global needs, health experts say.
And while Ms. von der Leyen says the deal will enable the European Union to help poorer regions, it reinforces the fact that the rich are still coming first in the global scramble for vaccines.
Siddartha Sankar Datta, a senior official with the World Health Organization in Europe, said he worried about how the deal would affect global supply.
“I think the bottom line should be that the access to this vaccine should not be a prerogative of the purchasing power of the country,” he said. He said, “As countries make the effort to ensure their population base gets benefits, we have to still keep pushing ourselves to ensure more equitable access.”
Still, for Ms. von der Leyen, and for the European Union, the deal with Pfizer and BioNTech offers a chance to remedy past mistakes.
“Europe has decided to make sure that, under any circumstances, they will be prepared if there’s more need, and as a consequence of that political decision, they are now prepared to take much bigger risks,” said Moncef Slaoui, who led the U.S. vaccine effort Operation Warp Speed, and is in frequent contact with Ms. von der Leyen on E.U. strategy.
“Politics and science are intertwined here,” he said.
BRUSSELS — A yearlong ban on all but the most essential travel from the United States to the European Union may be lifted soon, just in time for summer vacation.
In an interview with The New York Times on Sunday, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she would put forward a policy proposal for the union’s 27 member states to accept visitors who have received E.U.-approved vaccines, paving the way for a reopening of travel.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.”
But many questions remain. Here is what to know.
When will travel begin and will all E.U. countries permit visitors?
While Ms. von der Leyen’s comments signaled a major shift from the current policy, the details of exactly how and when the restart of travel would begin are still being worked out.
European Commission issued recommendations on the measures last month, in an attempt to standardize the documentation needed by travelers within the E.U. So far, travelers have been asked to provide various documents including medical certificates, test results, and declarations ahead of travel, making it hard to move around within the bloc.
The proposed certificate would provide digital proof that a person has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, has received a negative test result, or has recovered from the virus.
The initiative came after a push by tourism-dependent members of the European Union to salvage the summer travel season.
Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported from Brussels and Megan Specia from London.
The European Union has sued AstraZeneca over what the bloc has described as delays in shipping hundreds of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines, a sharp escalation of a longstanding dispute between the bloc and the maker of one of the world’s most important vaccines.
AstraZeneca has said that it would be able to deliver only a third of the 300 million doses that European officials had been expecting by the end of June. As a result, European officials said on Monday that they believed AstraZeneca had broken its contract, and that they were seeking speedier deliveries than the company said it could muster.
The two sides’ relationship had grown acrimonious in January when AstraZeneca slashed its expected deliveries for the first quarter of the year, setting back the bloc’s vaccination campaign by weeks as cases picked up across the continent and political leaders faced scorching criticism for inadequate planning.
For AstraZeneca, whose cheap and easy-to-store shot is being used by 135 countries, the lawsuit could create further difficulties in a bruising stretch. No company had been as instrumental in the race to vaccinate poorer countries around the world, but AstraZeneca has been buffeted in recent weeks by the discovery of an exceedingly rare, though serious, side effect that has prompted restrictions on its use in parts of Europe.
voted to recommend lifting a pause on the Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and adding a label about an exceedingly uncommon but potentially dangerous blood clotting disorder.
Federal health officials are expected to formally recommend that states lift the pause.
Administration of the vaccine ground to a halt recently after reports emerged of a rare blood clotting disorder in six women who had received the vaccine.
The overall risk of developing the disorder is extremely low. Women between 30 and 39 appear to be at greatest risk, with 11.8 cases per million doses given. There have been seven cases per million doses among women between 18 and 49.
Nearly eight million doses of the vaccine have now been administered. Among men and women who are 50 or over, there has been less than one case per million doses.
Johnson & Johnson had also decided to delay the rollout of its vaccine in Europe amid similar concerns, but it later decided to resume its campaign after the European Union’s drug regulator said a warning label should be added. South Africa, devastated by a more contagious virus variant that emerged there, also suspended use of the vaccine but later moved forward with it.
That could make it more difficult for European officials to demand faster shipments. But Belgian courts, like many in continental Europe, consider not only the wording of a contract, but also its genesis, which could work to the advantage of the European Union.
“A European judge looks at the good faith or lack of it that the parties brought into the contract, at the way in which the contract was negotiated, the general atmosphere,” said Professor Van Calster. “I think that the commission probably hopes that the judge will be able to determine that AstraZeneca, in particular, has failed to supply a number of vaccines which they could have reasonably supplied to the European Union.”
He said that the court could rule that AstraZeneca must surrender a certain number of doses, but that the outcome was uncertain.
AstraZeneca said on Monday that it “regrets the European Commission’s decision to take legal action over the supply of Covid-19 vaccines,” describing the lawsuit as “without merit.”
It said that it would deliver almost 50 million doses to the bloc by the end of April, and that it had “fully complied with the advance purchase agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court.”
Stefan de Keersmaecker, a spokesman on health issues for the European Commission, said that the bloc had begun legal action because it believed the purchase agreement had been breached.
negotiating a contract with Pfizer for 1.8 billion doses over the next two years.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, told The New York Times on Sunday that AstraZeneca had squandered the bloc’s trust.
“The noncommunication of AstraZeneca of the problems made it like pulling a chewing gum, because you never knew what was going on,” she said. Ms. von der Leyen added that the delivery shortfalls were too steep to ignore.
“At the moment, the company has a delay in delivering 200 million doses of vaccine by the end of the second quarter,” she said. “The number speaks for itself.”
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is being widely used across Europe, though some countries have curbed its use in younger people because of the risk of very rare blood clots. The European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s drug regulator, said this month that the shot’s benefits still outweighed its risks, but that it should carry a warning.
The vaccine is not yet authorized for use in the United States. American officials have given a few million doses that were manufactured there to Canada and Mexico.
BRUSSELS — The European Union has filed a lawsuit in Belgium against the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over what it says is a breach of contract in the company’s delivery of Covid-19 vaccine, the European Commission announced on Monday.
The bloc’s relationship with the company has soured rapidly since AstraZeneca said in January that it would not be able to deliver on its scheduled vaccine doses for the first quarter of the year, setting the region’s vaccination campaign back by weeks.
“The commission has started last Friday a legal action against the company AstraZeneca on the basis of breaches of the advanced purchase agreement,” said Stefan de Keersmaecker, a spokesman on health issues for the commission, the E.U.’s executive branch. “The reason indeed being that the terms of the contract, or some terms of the contract, have not been respected and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure the timely delivery of doses.”
Mr. de Keersmaecker said that all 27 E.U. member countries supported the move.
The company, while acknowledging that production problems have caused delays, has said its failure to deliver is not a breach of contract, because the European Union had placed its order after other clients, most notably Britain. A spokesman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.
The two parties had been engaged in a dispute arbitration effort, but the European Union decided to move ahead with a legal case. The contract is under Belgian law, and legal proceedings would happen in Belgium.
The European Union’s vaccine contract with AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, was the first it signed, in August last year, and covers 400 million doses. So far, the company has delivered just over 30 million.
In an interview with The Times on Sunday, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, said the company had only supplied a quarter of what it had promised to the bloc, and had to deliver 200 million doses of vaccines by the end of this quarter.
She indicated that the European Union would not open talks over future supply. “At the moment, the company has a delay in delivering 200 million doses of vaccine by the end of the second quarter,” she said. “The number speaks for itself.”
BRUSSELS — American tourists who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be able to visit the European Union over the summer, the head of the bloc’s executive body said in an interview with The New York Times on Sunday, more than a year after shutting down nonessential travel from most countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
The fast pace of vaccination in the United States, and advanced talks between authorities there and the European Union over how to make vaccine certificates acceptable as proof of immunity for visitors, will enable the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, to recommend a switch in policy that could see trans-Atlantic leisure travel restored.
“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Sunday in an interview with The Times in Brussels. “This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union.
“Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.,” she added. The agency, the bloc’s drugs regulator, has approved all three vaccines being used in the United States, namely the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots.
short list of countries with very low caseloads of the virus, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
Some E.U. countries have made small exceptions to permit visitors from outside the bloc. Greece, for example, said last week that it would open its borders to travelers from the United States starting Monday, provided they show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test.
The visitors from the handful of countries that are officially permitted to visit the European Union under existing rules would normally still have to comply with various sets of requirements implemented on a country-by-country basis, including having a negative coronavirus test and following quarantine rules.
undesirable in Europe a year ago, when the pandemic was raging in the United States, to being in the front of the line of global travelers free to resume leisure trips.
But the return of leisure travel to Europe on a bigger scale will also highlight the deepening inequality between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, both within countries and, particularly, on a global level. With India in the throes of the worst rise in coronavirus infections in the world, and with the past week’s global case total the highest since the pandemic began, that contrast could become even more jarring.
BRUSSELS — Bruised by major disruptions in supplies of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the European Union Wednesday announced it was putting trust and money into the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to salvage its vaccination rollout and secure doses for the future.
The pivot away from AstraZeneca, once a pillar of the E.U. inoculation program, comes after months of discord over delayed shipments and as the company battles worries over rare potential side effects of its shots.
In announcing the change in strategy, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said Pfizer had agreed to an early shipment of doses thatshe said should likely allow the bloc to reach its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer.
That goal was in jeopardy after AstraZeneca failed to deliver on expected doses in the first quarter of the year, then suffered fresh setbacks over potential side effects related to blood clots. The European vaccine campaign was dealt a further blow Tuesday when Johnson & Johnson said it would delay its own rollout in Europe because of similar concerns and after regulators paused its use in the United States.
supply disruptions from AstraZeneca in late January, and then with the emergence of the potential rare blood disorder that has battered the public’s confidence in vaccines and led to appointment cancellations.
“As we can see with the announcement by Johnson & Johnson yesterday, there are still many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedules of vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen said Wednesday.
Ms. von der Leyen said the Pfizer doses under negotiation for the next two years would include potential booster shots to extend the immunity of people who have already been inoculated, as well as possible new shots or boosters targeting emerging variants that might prove resilient against existing vaccines.
The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines performed well in clinical trials and the possible dangerous side effects have been rare. But trials of the Pfizer and Moderna shots shows that they were even more effective in preventing infection, and similar side effects have not emerged. Another mRNA vaccine, from CureVac, is in clinical trials.
On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s top drug regulator, said it was expediting its investigation of “very rare cases of unusual blood clots” in recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and expected to issue a recommendation next week. While the evaluation is ongoing, the agency reiterated its view that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks.
In a setback for AstraZeneca, Denmark on Wednesday became the first country to permanently stop the administration of the company’s vaccine, saying the potential side effects were significant enough to do so given that it had the pandemic under control and could rely on the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations.
With the fresh commitment by Pfizer to bring forward the delivery of 50 million doses originally slated for the end of the year, the company expects to deliver 250 million doses in total to the bloc by the end of June.
Ms. von der Leyen said more than 100 million people in the European Union had already received at least one vaccine dose, and 27 million had received both. The additional Pfizer vaccines, together with 35 million doses expected from Moderna over the next three months, and a more limited use of AstraZeneca doses already in the pipeline, should likely be enough to get the bloc to the coveted milestone of reaching 255 million people by September, E.U. officials said.
In stark contrast to the criticism of AstraZeneca’s handling of its E.U. dealings, Ms. von der Leyen praised Pfizer effusively, highlighting how important the company’s ability to respond quickly to help the European Union has been.
“I want to thank BioNTech/Pfizer; it has proven to be a reliable partner,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our needs.”
Addressing another sore point, Ms. von der Leyen said that the future Pfizer doses would be produced in the European Union.
Ample exports from the factories within the bloc to the rest of the world have enabled countries like Mexico and Canada to launch their vaccination campaigns, but those exports have also been identified as one reason there weren’t enough vaccines to go around in Europe.
The United States and Britain, by contrast, held tight to the vaccines made in their countries, helping speed along their inoculation efforts.