By Damon Mitchell • 15 May 2020 • 10:48
IN France, a day after pharmaceutical giant Sanofi’s CEO angered the French government by saying the US would enjoy priority access the company seem to have back-peddled saying it would ensure a future vaccine against Covid-19 reaches all regions of the world at the same time.
“There will be no particular advance given to any country,” said Serge Weinberg, chairman of the French pharmaceutical giant.
“We are organised with several manufacturing units. Some of them are in the United States but even more of them are in Europe and France,” Weinberg said, adding that earlier comments by the company’s chief executive had been “altered.”
Paul Hudson, Sanofi’s CEO, said on Wednesday that vaccine doses produced in the United States could go to US patients first, given the country had supported the research financially. His comments prompted outrage in France, with French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe stressing that Sanofi was “profoundly French” and warning that equal access to a vaccine was “non-negotiable.” On Thursday, Hudson said he was sorry that his earlier remarks had created such a storm and it was vital that any coronavirus vaccine reach all regions.
There is currently no vaccine and no known treatment for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Pharmacists are racing to develop what would be a lucrative prize, but have sought financial support to mitigate the risks. Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects against Covid-19. One is with British rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc and the other with US company Translate Bio.
“A vaccine against Covid-19 should be a public good for the world. The equal access of all to the virus is non-negotiable,” Philippe said on Thursday.
Philippe said he had reinforced this message to Sanofi’s chairman who in return had assured the prime minister of the distribution in France of any Sanofi vaccine.
Hudson’s initial comments upset President Emmanuel Macron, an Élysée palace official said. Earlier in the day, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said he had been “reassured” by a conversation with the head of Sanofi, describing Hudson’s comments on Wednesday as “clumsy.”
The controversy has raised questions over whether Europe has been too slow to respond in terms of organising and funding vaccine research. Sanofi reiterated on Thursday that the United States had moved more quickly in this regard.
The charity Oxfam said pharmaceutical companies should not be able to decide “who lives and who dies.”
“Governments must work together to stop corporations profiteering from the pandemic and save the lives of people across the globe,” Oxfam said.
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