France says ‘unacceptable’ for Sanofi to give US vaccine first

Researchers are working to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. (AFP pic)

PARIS: The French government warned Thursday that it would be “unacceptable” for pharmaceutical giant Sanofi to reserve any Covid-19 vaccine for the United States first, after the firm’s chief said he would give preference to the American market.

“For us, it would be unacceptable for there to be privileged access to such and such a country for financial reasons,” deputy finance minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio.

Sanofi’s British CEO Paul Hudson said Wednesday that if its efforts to find a vaccine pan out, he would supply the US government first because “it’s invested in taking the risk,” after it expanded a partnership with his company earlier this year.

“That’s how it will be because they’ve invested to try and protect their population, to restart their economy,” he told Bloomberg News.

In April, Sanofi joined with Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline to work on a virus, though trials have not even started, and any successful treatment would be available toward the end of next year at the earliest.

Their project is being funded in part by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

But Hudson’s comments drew outrage from French health associations, not least since Sanofi has benefited from tens of millions of euros in research credits from the French state in recent years.

Pannier-Runacher said she had immediately contacted the group after the comments from Hudson, a British citizen who took over as Sanofi’s chief last year.

“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,” she said.