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Sanofi backtracks on promise of shipping COVID-19 vaccine to the US first

Published on 18/05/20 at 11:03am
U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.

Sanofi has backtracked on comments it made last week, where the company’s CEO said the US would get priority when they had developed their coronavirus vaccine.

On 14 May, CEO Paul Hudson told Bloomberg: “The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it's invested in taking the risk. That's how it will be because they've invested to try and protect their population, to restart their economy.”

This arrangement was due to a deal between Sanfoi and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the US Department of Health.

This prompted uproar from French politicians, as Sanofi has benefitted from millions of Euros worth of tax credits from the French government. President Macron said in a statement that any vaccine should be used for “public good for the world, and not subject to the laws of the market.” France’s Prime Minister also tweeted that: “Equal access for all to a vaccine is not negotiable. I just reminded Serge Weinberg who chairs Sanofi that this is a great and deeply French company.”

France’s deputy Finance Minister, Agnese Pannier-Runacher, told local media that: “For us, it would be unacceptable for there to be privileged access to such and such a country for financial reasons. The head of Sanofi's French division confirmed to me that a vaccine would be available in every country and obviously to the French as well, not least because it has production capacity in France.”

This controversy prompted an intervention from Sanofi’s Chairman, Serge Weinberg, who said: “The words of the director general have been distorted. We are organized with different manufacturing units, some in the United States, but the largest in France and in Europe. We do everything to ensure that all countries are served at the same time. There should not be the least ambiguity on our intentions.”

Sanofi’s Pasteur offshoot is the largest company in the world focused entirely on developing vaccines. It had already been working on a vaccine for COVID-19 when they entered the $30 million deal with BARDA.

Conor Kavanagh

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