Changing Strategy, the E.U. Bets Big on Pfizer to Battle Covid

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BRUSSELS — Damaged by major disruptions in supplies of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, the European Unity Wednesday announced it was putting trust and money into the Pfizer-BioNTech hastily to salvage its vaccination rollout and secure doses for the future.

The pivot away from AstraZeneca, before you can turn around a pillar of the E.U. inoculation program, comes after months of discord upwards delayed shipments and as the company battles worries over rare budding side effects of its shots.

In announcing the change in strategy, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, reported Pfizer had agreed to an early shipment of doses that she said should odds-on allow the bloc to reach its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer.

That aim was in jeopardy after AstraZeneca failed to deliver on expected doses in the start with quarter of the year, then suffered fresh setbacks over implicit side effects related to blood clots. The European vaccine struggle was dealt a further blow Tuesday when Johnson & Johnson indicated it would delay its own rollout in Europe because of similar concerns and after regulators broke its use in the United States.

There was no indication that the European Union was flourishing to cancel existing orders for dozens of millions of doses from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, or that European healthiness officials had changed their minds that the benefits of the shots prevail overed any risks. But E.U. officials indicated that they would only palter new deals with companies that are producing Covid vaccines degraded on messenger RNA, or mRNA, like Pfizer and Moderna.

“We need to focus now on technologies that arrange proven their worth: mRNA vaccines are a clear case in core,” Ms. von der Leyen said as she announced that the bloc had launched negotiations with Pfizer for 1.8 billion administers for 2022 and 2023.

The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines use a harmless virus to over a piece of genetic material from the virus that causes Covid, prompting an vaccinated system response to it. The mRNA vaccines, based on a newer technology, also use a essay of genetic material from the coronavirus, but not an entire virus, to provoke the exempt response.

The European Union was criticized early on for its slow procurement of amounts. And it has fallen further behind the United States and Britain as it suffered burn out a become furious after blow in its inoculation campaign, first with major furnish disruptions from AstraZeneca in late January, and then with the rise of the potential rare blood disorder that has battered the public’s aplomb in vaccines and led to appointment cancellations.

“As we can see with the announcement by Johnson & Johnson yesterday, there are peacefulness many factors that can disrupt the planned delivery schedules of vaccines,” Ms. von der Leyen bring to light Wednesday.

Ms. von der Leyen said the Pfizer doses under negotiation for the next two years will-power include potential booster shots to extend the immunity of people who be undergoing already been inoculated, as well as possible new shots or boosters aim emerging variants that might prove resilient against existing vaccines.

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines put oned well in clinical trials and the possible dangerous side effects prepare been rare. But trials of the Pfizer and Moderna shots shows that they were flat more effective in preventing infection, and similar side effects set up not emerged. Another mRNA vaccine, from CureVac, is in clinical experimentals.

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency, the bloc’s top drug regulator, estimated it was expediting its investigation of “very rare cases of unusual blood clots” in legatees of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and expected to issue a recommendation next week. While the reckoning is ongoing, the agency reiterated its view that the benefits of the vaccine surpass the risks.

In a setback for AstraZeneca, Denmark on Wednesday became the first state to permanently stop the administration of the company’s vaccine, saying the potential side effects were signal enough to do so given that it had the pandemic under control and could rely on the Pfizer and Moderna inoculations.

With the moderate commitment by Pfizer to bring forward the delivery of 50 million dosages originally slated for the end of the year, the company expects to deliver 250 million dispenses in total to the bloc by the end of June.

Ms. von der Leyen said more than 100 million people in the European Club had already received at least one vaccine dose, and 27 million had got both. The additional Pfizer vaccines, together with 35 million prescribes expected from Moderna over the next three months, and a more meagre 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 rephrased.

In stark contrast to the criticism of AstraZeneca’s handling of its E.U. dealings, Ms. von der Leyen reverenced Pfizer effusively, highlighting how important the company’s ability to respond swiftly to help the European Union has been.

“I want to thank BioNTech/Pfizer; it has upheld to be a reliable partner,” Ms. von der Leyen said. “It has delivered on its commitments, and it is responsive to our wants.”

Addressing another sore point, Ms. von der Leyen said that the to be to come Pfizer doses would be produced in the European Union.

Ample exports from the works within the bloc to the rest of the world have enabled countries be fond of Mexico and Canada to launch their vaccination campaigns, but those exports force also been identified as one reason there weren’t enough vaccines to go all in Europe.

The United States and Britain, by contrast, held tight to the vaccines made in their countries, plateful speed along their inoculation efforts.

Monika Pronczukgave reporting.

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