E.U. Approves 3 New Vaccine Production Sites

Plants in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany will add to Europe’s lagging supplies. Here’s the latest on the pandemic.,

LiveUpdated March 27, 2021, 9:36 a.m. ETMarch 27, 2021, 9:36 a.m. ET

Plants in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany will add to Europe’s lagging supplies. India’s pandemic economy has a new scourge: predatory lenders.

A line for vaccines in Munich, earlier this week. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose.
A line for vaccines in Munich, earlier this week. Only about 10 percent of Europeans have received a first dose.Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

The European Union’s stumbling Covid-19 vaccination drive, badly shaken by the recent AstraZeneca safety scare, got a boost Friday from the European Medicines Agency, which approved new AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine production sites.

The agency, an arm of the European Union and Europe’s top drug regulator, approved sites in the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. It also loosened regulations for how long the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at ultralow temperatures.

The moves could speed up the Continent’s lagging vaccine production and distribution, which have been plagued by delays and setbacks.

Though the European Union is flush with cash, influence and negotiating heft, only about 10 percent of its citizens have received a first dose, compared with 26 percent in the United States and 44 percent in Britain. The bloc of 27 nations was comparatively slow to negotiate contracts with drugmakers, and regulators were cautious and deliberative in approving some vaccines. And it has been stymied by supply disruptions and shortages.

Europe also experienced a scare over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine and distribution in several countries was temporarily halted. Most of those countries have resumed using it, after the E.M.A. vouched for its safety, but public confidence in the shot has been severely undermined.

The agency said a new warning label would be added to the vaccine so that people in the medical community could watch for rare complications that could lead to blood clots and brain bleeds.

Trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine is essential to fighting the pandemic worldwide. The shot is more easily stored and less expensive than Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, and for now, it is sold without the goal of earning a profit.

The European Union has exported more vaccine doses than it has administered. On Wednesday, the it revealed emergency legislation that would curb exports of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured in its countries for the next six weeks.

According to a tweet by Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, the European Union has shipped out 77 million doses since early December, 88 million will have been distributed internally by the end of the week, and 62 million shots have been administered within the member nations.

“I can’t explain to European citizens why we are exporting millions of vaccine doses to countries that are producing vaccines themselves and aren’t sending us anything back,” Ms. von der Leyen, said last week.

The police in Hyderabad, India, have attributed five of the city's suicides to lenders that prey on working-class Indians.
The police in Hyderabad, India, have attributed five of the city’s suicides to lenders that prey on working-class Indians.Credit…Saumya Khandelwal for The New York Times

These lenders don’t require credit scores or visits to a bank. But they charge high costs over a brief period. They also require access to a borrower’s phone, siphoning up contacts, photos, text messages, even battery percentage.

Then they bombard borrowers and their social circles with pleas, threats and sometimes fake legal documents threatening dire consequences for nonpayment.

In conservative, tightly knit communities, such loss of honor can be devastating.

“If I am labeled a fraud in front of everyone, my self-respect is gone, my honor is gone,” Kiran Kumar, a 28-year-old cement salesman, said in an interview. “What is left?”

Mr. Kumar initially borrowed about $40 from a lender through an online app to supplement his $200-a-month salary. But he couldn’t pay the mounting fees and interest, so he borrowed from others. Eventually, he owed roughly $4,000.

One morning, he said, the harassing calls began soon after sunrise, with the lenders threatening to make his problems public. Mr. Kumar recalls remaining in bed and, for hours, thinking about how he was going to end his life.

The authorities in India are increasingly worried that many more victims like Mr. Kumar may be out there.

The investigations are raising alarms in India over the vulnerability of a population of 1.3 billion people who are still getting accustomed to digital payments.

The apps being used to take advantage of Indians also speak to the global nature of online fraud. Many of the companies use techniques that flourished in China two years ago before the authorities there shut them down.

In India, one police investigation alone in the city of Hyderabad has mapped out about 14 million transactions across the country worth $3 billion over about six months. India’s central bank and national authorities are now investigating.

“It is becoming difficult for us to count the zeros,” said Avinash Mohanty, the joint commissioner of police in Hyderabad.

One of the busiest metro systems in the world, the London Underground, is operating at around 20 percent of normal.
One of the busiest metro systems in the world, the London Underground, is operating at around 20 percent of normal.Credit…Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

In London, Piccadilly Circus station is nearly empty on a weekday morning, while the Delhi Metro ferries fewer than half the riders it used to. In Rio, bus drivers are on strike, and in New York City, subway traffic is at just a third of normal volume.

A year into the pandemic, public transit is hanging by a thread in many cities. Riders stay home or remain fearful of the close quarters of buses and trains. Without fares, transit revenues have fallen off a cliff. Service has been cut, fares have risen and transport workers are facing layoffs.

That spells disaster for efforts to combat another urgent global crisis: climate change. Public transit is a relatively simple remedy for urban greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention air quality, noise and congestion.

“We are facing maybe the most important crisis in the public transit sector in different parts of the world,” said Sergio Avelleda, director of urban mobility for the World Resources Institute. “It’s urgent to act.”

But act how? Transit agencies temporarily bailed out by governments wonder how long assistance will last, and experts are scrambling to adapt public transport for cities beginning to emerge from the pandemic.

There are a few outliers. In Shanghai, for example, ridership took a nosedive in February 2020, but has rebounded as new coronavirus infections remain low and the economy improves.

But elsewhere the picture is grim.

On the Paris Metro, ridership was just over half of normal levels early this year. Ile-de-France Mobilites, the regional transport agency, said 2020 losses had reached 2.6 billion euros, or over $3 billion.

Amsterdam’s trams and buses have reached about a third of normal volume. Rome’s Metro is drawing fewer than half of its usual passengers.

The London Underground, one of the world’s busiest, is operating at around 20 percent of its usual four million daily journeys. Buses are at around 40 percent of normal.

“It’s been pretty devastating, to be perfectly honest,” said Alex Williams, London’s director of city planning for transport. “One of our concerns are substantial declines in public transport and higher levels of car use.”

Cities could upgrade transportation systems now so passengers will return, said Mohamed Mezghani, head of the International Association of Public Transport.

“People will feel more comfortable traveling in a new modern public transit system” after the pandemic, Mr. Mezghani said. “It’s about perception in the end.”

Singer Dolly Parton wore a sparkly navy blue knit top with cold-shoulder cutouts when she received her vaccination on March 2.
Singer Dolly Parton wore a sparkly navy blue knit top with cold-shoulder cutouts when she received her vaccination on March 2.Credit…@Dollyparton, via Reuters

Look out, Zoom shirt. Here comes the vaccine top.

As millions of more Americans become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, fashion-minded folks are giving extra consideration to what they will wear for their coveted appointments, and the emerging vaccine-ready top seems to be the cold-shoulder top, thanks to Dolly Parton.

On March 2, the 75-year-old country music star posted a four-minute video across her social media channels, getting her first shot of the Moderna vaccine at Vanderbilt Health in Tennessee.

“Dolly gets a dose of her own medicine,” she wrote on Instagram, a reference to the $1 million she donated last year for coronavirus vaccine research to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which worked with Moderna.

For the occasion, she wore a sparkly navy blue knit top with cold-shoulder cutouts that was custom designed by her creative director, Steve Summers. “I even have a little cutout in my shirt — I matched it over here,” she told the doctor who administered the shot, pointing to her other shoulder.

Her choice kick-started a vaccine fashion moment. The cold-shoulder may not have seen this much action since the 1990s, when Donna Karan sent Linda Evangelista down a fall 1991 runway wearing a white one under a matching jacket. Women’s Wear Daily called it “silly,” but when Liza Minnelli wore a black version to the 1992 Oscars, followed by Candice Bergen to the Emmys (and then Hillary Clinton, in one of her early looks as the first lady), it struck a glamorously accessible chord. During the early 2000s, it was a staple of the so-called going-out-top trend, when night life held sway over fashion.

These days, the cold-shoulder has less to do with “going out” than the ease with which it allows wearers to be vaccinated. Lyst, the fashion search and shopping platform, has seen searches for cold-shoulder tops increase 21 percent since the start of March, according to a company spokeswoman.

When Wendy Brande, 53, a jewelry designer and activist in New York City, went to get vaccinated at the Javits Convention Center in New York City on March 5, she wore a black cold-shoulder sweater that she bought on eBay around 2005. “I just about fell over when I saw Dolly wearing one,” she said. “I knew I kept it for this moment.”

Apparently, she was not the only one. As she was receiving her Pfizer shot, the nurse told her: “Everyone’s wearing these tops.”

— Mia Adorante

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