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French pharma chief backtracks after promise Covid-19 vaccine will reach American patients first sparks ire

French pharma chief backtracks after promise Covid-19 vaccine will reach American patients first sparks ire
French drugmaker Sanofi has walked back its promise to give US patients priority access to a potential Covid-19 vaccine. The firm’s favoritism triggered a backlash in France that drew in the country’s government.

Sanofi Chief Executive Paul Hudson said on Thursday that it is vital any coronavirus vaccine be made available worldwide, and called on European Union countries to work collectively toward such a vaccine.

A day earlier, Hudson had told a different story. Speaking to Bloomberg News on Wednesday, the pharma executive said that, as the US has funded his company’s vaccine research, it has “the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk.”

Also on rt.com Your money, your right? France disputes PRIVILEGED ACCESS to Covid-19 vaccine for US

Hudson’s statement upset French officials. Junior economy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher described it as “unacceptable” that any country would be given “privileged access” on a “financial pretext.” Hudson has also been summoned to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron next week, Reuters reported on Thursday.

With the controversy raging, the company apparently altered its original position, explaining that production on American soil will go towards the US market. The vaccine will also be manufactured in France, and made immediately available to Europe. The head of Sanofi France insisted that if an effective medicine is discovered, it would be “available to all.”

The scramble to develop a vaccine has left some countries at risk of being sidelined. The US is currently funding two vaccines in evaluation, while China is funding four. For both countries, priority access is implicit. UK residents have been given priority for an experimental vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford, according to AstraZeneca, which will manufacture the shot.

Europe, in contrast, has been slow to act. Germany’s BioNTech has partnered up with China’s Fosun Pharma and the US’ Pfizer to develop a vaccine, but no solely European vaccine has entered testing yet.

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