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 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, 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.