The chairman of the board of a French pharmaceutical company that gets state funding says the statement by its CEO that the USA would get a coronavirus vaccine first had been “misinterpreted” and “distorted”.
Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson, 52, who is from the UK, had given an interview to Bloomberg in which he said Americans need to be rewarded for their investment and would get “preferential treatment”.
But Serge Weinberg, the chairman of Sanofi’s board since 2010, told French media last night (THU) that this was “absurd” and added that they would “supply all countries at the same time”.
Speaking to French newspaper Le Figaro, he said: “It is necessary to clarify things and re-read the words of Paul Hudson, which were misinterpreted. The pre-order priority granted to the United States government only concerns manufacturing in the United States. However, Sanofi is a global French group, with the world’s first vaccine production site located near Lyon. Our unequivocal goal is to produce this vaccine as soon as possible at all of our sites.”
He added: “The group is getting ready to supply all countries at the same time. To speak of the preference given by Sanofi in the United States is absurd.”
Sanofi’s main site in France is its campus in the French city of Lyon, France’s third largest city and the capital city of the south-eastern Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.
Weinberg’s words come after the Elysee Palace in Paris said on Thursday that any vaccine should be “accessible as quickly as possible and distributed in a fair and equitable manner, that is to say that it should be available everywhere, for everyone, and at the same time.”
The decision by Sanofi, a taxpayer-supported French pharmaceutical company to give a potential coronavirus vaccine to the USA even before France was slammed as “scandalous” and caused widespread outrage.
Yesterday, Sanofi France boss Olivier Bogillot was also in damage control mode on French news channel LCI, attempting to reassure France that “obviously”, the French would also have access to the medication if it was developed by the company.
He said on LCI: “When we have an efficacious vaccine, it will be accessible to all countries and especially to the French.”
It is worth noting that he did not contradict Mr Hudson’s claim that the Americans would have access to it first.
Mr Bogillot was speaking after Agnes Pannier-Runacher, the French Secretary of State for Economy and Finance, slammed the move of making it available to the Americans first as “unacceptable.”
The French Socialist Party issued a statement by its First Secretary, Olivier Faure, saying: “Sanofi is a French company whose research activity is funded under the Research Tax Credit (CIR) – an annual tax credit of 150 million EUR (133 million GBP) – and the Competitiveness Employment Tax Credit (CICE) – 13 million EUR (11.5 million GBP) in 2013, increased to 24 million EUR (21.2 million GBP) in 2018. The government must act with the utmost firmness to prevent this decision.”
He added: “The commitment of the French to develop a champion in the health sector cannot result in seeing him prefer other markets to launch his vaccines.
“There cannot be systematically privatised gains and losses or investments systematically carried over to the collective effort of the French. We can’t depend on China for masks and see our own vaccine production go to the United States.”
According to French media, optimists believe that a vaccine could be on the market as soon as early 2021.
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