That was fast. Less than a day after Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson said the U.S. would be set for first dibs on the company’s potential COVID-19 vaccine, pushback is mounting, and French President Emmanuel Macron wants a meeting.
Following Hudson’s assertion that the U.S. would get initial access to Sanofi’s COVID-19 vaccine program—if it succeeds—France's junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Sud Radio that “privileged access” for various countries would be “unacceptable,” Reuters reports. Sanofi is based in Paris and has operations worldwide.
Macron himself was “affected” by the news and is seeking a meeting, a government official told Bloomberg. A potential vaccine would need to benefit the “common good,” the official added.
The pushback comes after Hudson told Bloomberg the United States’ early investment into Sanofi’s program means the country “has the right to the largest pre-order.” Hudson has served as Sanofi's CEO since September, joining from Swiss drug giant Novartis.
The U.S. government expects early access, Hudson told the news service. The U.S. backed Sanofi’s project back in February, and as part of the deal, the government expects that “if we’ve helped you manufacture the doses at risk, we expect to get the doses first,” Hudson told Bloomberg.
Shortly after the remarks made their rounds, Sanofi press representatives sought to clarify the picture. A spokesman said the company "benefits from a diversified footprint around the world" and has "always been committed in these unprecedented circumstances to make our vaccine accessible to everyone."
Vaccines made in the U.S. will be designated for U.S. use, he said, while other sites will supply Europe and the rest of the world.
As vaccine programs race forward, there’s “no guarantee” any will work, NIAID chief Anthony Fauci said at a Senate hearing this week. Still, he's "cautiously optimistic," and experts are already thinking about access and supply concerns.
Stephane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna, said at a recent CNBC virtual summit that he hopes “three, four, five vaccines” against COVID-19 succeed, “because no manufacturer can make enough doses for the planet.”
Moderna is among several companies that have inked partnerships to build capacity ahead of potential launches. Johnson & Johnson has struck a pair of deals, while Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline partnered to combine their global scale. AstraZeneca has signed on to develop and produce promising vaccines from a project led by the University of Oxford. Pfizer is working to scale up with BioNTech, its development partner.