The European Union (EU) has secured a large volumes of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines thanks to the trust European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has built with the CEO of the pharmaceutical company over text messages and phone calls, reported the New York Times on Wednesday.
The deal will be finalized this week, in which the EU will lock in 1.8 billion doses from Pfizer, making the bloc Pfizer’s single biggest client. This is great news for the EU, considering that countries around the world are facing a shortage of vaccines.
The “personal diplomacy” of von der Leyen played a big role in the deal according to the New York Times. “Multiple leaders of the world, they would reach out to me, from presidents or prime ministers and kings, and general secretaries of organizations,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was quoted saying in the newspaper. He also said he and von der Leyen had “developed a deep trust, because we got into deep discussions,” adding, “She knew details about the variants, she knew details about everything. So that made the discussion, way more engaged.” The NYT said the deal revealed a striking alignment of political survival and corporate hustle.
Von der Leyen and Bourla first connected in January, when the pharmaceutical boss had to explain why his company had to cut vaccine supplies temporarily while it upgraded manufacturing facilities in Belgium. In February, AstraZeneca, which the bloc had heavy reliance on, announced production problems, which raised questions about von der Leyen’s leadership in handling the crisis. This was when her bond with Bourla came into play. “For a month, Ms. von der Leyen had been exchanging texts and calls with Albert Bourla,” said the NYT. “The calls resulted in a string of deals.” On Feb. 17, the bloc announced an order of 200 million shots, and on April 19, it secured yet another 100 million.
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