Berlin - It feels a little like the wheels are coming off.
It’s hard to discern the lines of truth in the fuzzy battle between the European Union and Astrazeneca for a vaccine that doesn’t seem to exist and is or isn’t as potent as promised. Is Astrazeneca just another greedy company that over-promised to secure early orders it can’t fulfil (except to the UK, which opens a whole other box of Pandora) or is the EU’s strategy of ordering from several companies a really stupid idea?
And how do you explain the Biontech/Pfizer disaster? A month ago they were the world’s Made-in-Germany saviour and now they’re saying, hey, scrape the bottom of each vial and see if you can get an extra dose.
College students and Berlin hipsters do something very similar but aren’t things like medicine and vaccines exactly measured and proportioned? Was there an extra dose in there all along?
After Belgian authorities yesterday stopped by an Astrazeneca plant for an inspection that looked like a veiled threat, Berlin’s health minister today raised her hand to say Berlin Chemie, arguably the biggest capital city company no one knows about, might have some capacity to make a vaccine.
Shouldn't not only we but the big pharma companies have known about this extra capacity sometime in the past year?
And which vaccine? Astrazeneca? Biontech/Pfizer? Moderna?
Or what about Sputnik? This being Berlin, you never know.
Most of us just want our elderly relatives to get a jab or two in the coming days followed by the rest of us, let’s say by June. In December it felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel but now it feels like it was just a coyote in an Astrazeneca, Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna t-shirt painting a fake tunnel on a brick wall. Ursula von der Leyden might have been holding the paint can.
On a more upbeat note, that whole EU thing was the focus of one of our most popular stories in the past week – the likelihood that a non-UK Euro-English will emerge. Linguist Marko Modiano says it could become the de facto second language in the EU. It’s already the de facto second language of this grungy capital we call Berlin.
And in a return to corona, two stories about the effects of the virus caught people’s attention. Ingomar Däbler used to be a much-in-demand techno DJ but since restrictions paused that career path, he’s now training to become a train driver. On the other side, predatory landlords and a pandemic are awful bedfellows and now Kate Coffee’s been forced to close one of our favourite bars: John Muir in Kreuzberg.
To mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, we adapted an article by one of our German colleagues on one of the few remaining Shoa survivors, Margot Friedländer. She explains why she decided to return to Berlin.
Then there was a lengthy but important Q&A with Brandenburg juvenile judge Andreas Müller about why he’s asked the country’s top court to consider the constitutionality of cannabis laws. Just legalise it, he says.
Oh, and rents in Berlin may be going down or at least stabilising, thanks to the Mietendeckel.
Next week is winter vacation in Berlin, which for most parents will just feel like January, except the kids will be watching Netflix rather than trying to help their teachers better work Teams, Zoom and whatever that unreliable Berlin online teaching platform is.
And hopefully next week we’ll know whether it was Big Pharma or the EU that dropped the ball.
Experience says it’s a little bit of both.