The French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi caused outrage in Europe by announcing that it would give priority to distributing a possible vaccine in the United States, because the American authorities have invested financially to support its research.
What vaccine is it?
Sanofi is a French company, but the group’s shareholders are more than 60% foreign investors.
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The pharmaceutical group is currently working on two programs to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, one of which is in partnership with the British GSK, GlaxoSmithKline, partly located in Belgium. This program receives financial support from the United States Department of Health.
On the GSK side, we do not have a contract to gain priority access to the American market or accept American pre-orders.
GSK Belgium, contacted by us, explains the nature of the collaboration with Sanofi. “Sanofi provides the antigen and we provide the adjuvant, which should allow a better protective reaction and less use of the antigen. And together, we are working on clinical development”, explains his spokesperson Elisabeth Van Damme.
On the other hand, GSK Belgium does not prefer to comment on the polemical remarks of the boss of Sanofi and sticks to its starting position: “Our intention is to allow the widest and fastest possible equitable access to a Covid-19 vaccine worldwide, without favoring anyone.” The spokesperson also tells us that on the GSK side, “We do not have a contract to gain priority access to the American market or accept American pre-orders”.
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Why would the United States be delivered first?
In an interview published Wednesday by Bloomberg, Paul Hudson, chief executive of Sanofi, said that the United States would be a priority in the supply of a possible vaccine. “The American government”, said the boss of Sanofi, “has the right to take the largest pre-orders because he has invested in risk-taking” linked to the research and development of this vaccine.
The American government […] has the right to take the largest pre-orders because he has invested in risk-taking.
The lead could be a few days or weeks, also said Paul Hudson. And only then would the vaccine be distributed to other countries including Europe.
The Sanofi official stressed that the United States had already promised several hundred million euros, in addition to facilitating regulatory procedures to allow searches.
Europe lagging behind?
“The Americans are effective at this time. The EU must be as effective in helping us to get this vaccine available very quickly”, affirmed for his part Mr. Bogillot, the president of Sanofi France.
Olivier Bogillot also said that theoretically, “The goal is for the vaccine to be available both in the US, France and Europe in the same way.”
Sanofi is at the stage of “talks” with European authorities as well as countries like France and Germany. Olivier Véran, French Minister of Health, as such, explained to be working on a “alliance” with other European countries to facilitate the development of a vaccine.
But some voices denounce the lack of European proactivity. This is particularly the case of the president of Medef in France, Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, on BFM Business. “The United States has a drug agency that put $ 30 million into the business. Europe has no drug agency, and that brings us back to a debate […] on Europe’s ability to act collectively “, he added.
Europe has no drug agency, and that brings us back to a debate […] on Europe’s ability to act collectively.
European Commission is considering mobilizing an emergency fund of 2.4 billion euros to strengthen the capacity of pharmaceutical companies in Europe to prevent the bloc from being destitute when a document consulted by Reuters shows a coronavirus vaccine will have been found.
On May 4, Brussels organized a global telethon to fund research and development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus, which has raised 7.4 billion euros in contributions. The United States did not participate in this telethon. “We are keeping the door open to the US administration to participate in this global effort”said Commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer on Thursday.
The vaccine : “public good”, or even free?
Following the words of the boss of Sanofi, the NGO Oxfam denounced information “simply outrageous“and criticized “financial motivations and the search for profits”.
Emmanuel Macron called him to have this vaccine “extract from market laws”. European Commission spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker said that “the Covid-19 vaccine must be a public good and its access must be equitable and universal”.
In an open letter published online, more than 140 personalities also asked this Thursday that future vaccines and treatments against the coronavirus be provided “free to all”.
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A vaccine, yes, but available when?
The Sanofi official confirmed that he was still counting on a vaccine ready within 18 to 24 months, stressing how fast such a schedule was compared to normal. Normally, “It takes ten years to develop a vaccine”, “we are trying to speed up all the phases”.
The European sector authority, the European Medicines Agency, spoke on Thursday of a possible vaccine within a year, but warned that it was the most optimistic scenario in the race for vaccines.
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