EU regulator approves Oxford/AstraZeneca jab but delivery dispute deepens


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Moderna is latest provider to warn of shortages

The European Medicines Agency on Friday formally approved the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for EU use as Brussels’ fight with the pharma group over delivery shortfalls intensified.

The jab is the third to be passed by the EMA after those from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna. It follows a decision from Germany’s domestic regulator on Thursday to recommend its use for under-65s only because of a lack of data on efficacy for older people, concerns echoed by France this afternoon.

EU approval comes as the bloc presses AstraZeneca to reverse its cut in scheduled deliveries for the first three months of the year. Brussels, which has ordered 300m doses with an option to take 100m more, argues that delivery should also include jabs manufactured at sites in the UK. The EU has now published its contract with the company to try to bolster its position — read our explainer here.

Amid the blame game over shortages and accusations of “vaccine nationalism” there were some nuggets of good news. Interim trial data from US company Novavax on Friday showed its jab to be 89 per cent effective. Crucially, it performs well against the B.1.1.7 mutation (the virus variant first discovered in the UK) and the 501.V2 strain (the variant first found in South Africa).

Phase-3 trials of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine meanwhile showed 66 per cent efficacy at stopping moderate and severe cases of Covid-19. It does not require ultra-cold storage, and even more importantly, is a one-shot product.

An announcement from Moderna underlined why new vaccines cannot come too soon. The company told Italy and France on Friday that it would deliver 20 per cent fewer doses in February than expected.

Bookmark this: More than 86m coronavirus jabs have now been administered in 66 countries across the world. Check out our revamped vaccine tracker for more details


Governments and companies in emerging markets sold a record amount of international bonds in January in a “tsunami” of issuance as they rushed to lock in low interest rates. “Countries realise they better satisfy their financing needs when the sky is blue because you never know what will come your way,” said an investment officer at UBS Wealth Management.

Column chart of January volumes ($bn) showing that emerging markets have notched a new monthly issuance record

Nicolai Tangen, head of the $1.3tn Norwegian oil fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, told the Financial Times of his worries over market exuberance driven by central bank stimulus measures. The fund on average owns 1.5 per cent of every listed stock in the world, making it one of the most influential global investors. Read more in our Runaway Markets series.

Columnist John Dizard warned investors against the assumption that the post-vaccine world would automatically herald a new era of peace and free financial flows. The risk of conflict and the introduction of capital controls are a real possibility, he says.


Strong sales in China have helped Japan’s Toyota regain its crown from Volkswagen as the world’s biggest carmaker with 9.5m sales in 2020. Jaguar too has profited from a resurgent Chinese economy, but overall last year was a disaster for UK carmakers. The country’s car plants produced the lowest number of cars since 1984 as the pandemic forced factories and the showrooms of dealers such as Lookers to close for months.

The airline industry continues to be convulsed by the effects of the pandemic. American Airlines reported an $8.9bn net loss for the year and is seeking new financing; quarterly losses at Japan’s ANA rose to $1.2bn; and easyJet announced a quarterly loss of £400m and said it would fly a maximum of 10 per cent of its usual timetable in the first quarter. There was, however, some good news: the UK said it would waive its “use or lose” rules on airport slots over the summer.

A pandemic reading boom has encouraged Bloomsbury — publisher of the Harry Potter series — to raise its guidance for revenues and profits when it reports full-year results in June, sending its shares up 11 cent on Friday morning.

Global economy

There were glimmers of hope for the eurozone economy with some better than expected gross domestic product figures for the fourth quarter, although probably not enough to ward off a double-dip recession for the bloc as a whole when consolidated data is published on February 2. Germany was up 0.1 per cent, Spain increased by 0.4 per cent and France shrank by 1.3 per cent. Follow the ups and downs of recovery with our global economy tracker

Line chart of GDP (index rebased) showing French and Spanish output remains well below pre-pandemic levels

GDP data for the US on Thursday showed the pace of recovery slowing in the fourth quarter with growth of 1 per cent when measured on the same basis as other major economies. The annual contraction in 2020 is the worst since the end of the second world war.

The IMF said advanced economies could live with much higher levels of debt after the pandemic and needed to “rethink” their rules on public finances. Vitor Gaspar, the IMF fiscal policy chief, told the FT that their focus should be on beating Covid-19, restoring growth and cutting unemployment.

The essentials

A new wellbeing and fitness hub now houses all our related content, from mental health to medication and beauty to bird spotting. Dive into the FT feel-good zone here.

Have your say

FT reader manticore comments on Boeing delays 777X deliveries again as it posts record annual loss:

What are their plans for a world where long-haul carriers are either bust or nationalised, and passenger prices have risen by a factor of three or more (five, to get to per-seat profitability)? What do their plans look like with an estimated 35 per cent long-term drop in business travel, which will no longer finance the tourist trade?

Final thought

Is there still a point to haute couture now we’re all just wearing our PJs? “I hate the idea of homewear,” says Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli. “I don’t think you need couture at home. Or maybe you do. But not something that looks like homewear.” FT fashion editor Lauren Indvik reports from (virtual) couture week in Paris.

Chanel’s haute couture show for spring 2021
Chanel’s haute couture show for spring 2021 © Kuba Dabrowski

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