Paul Hudson, CEO of Sanofi, said on Thursday that it is important that every coronavirus vaccine reaches all parts of the world after previously angering the French government by saying that some countries would be given priority access.
However, the CEO of the French pharmaceutical giant was aware of the need for a faster and more cooperative European effort to find a vaccine against the new coronavirus that has killed over 298,000 people worldwide and crippled economies worldwide.
Hudson informed Bloomberg on Wednesday that US-made vaccine doses may first go to US patients because the country had funded the research.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said there should be no favorites to introduce a possible vaccine. Equal access is not negotiable, he said.
Hudson said on Thursday that it is important that every coronavirus vaccine reaches all regions, and he is sorry that his previous statements have triggered such a storm.
"I have been campaigning for Europe's willingness to treat COVID-19, build capacity in Europe, ensure that we are ready, and reconcile EU governments for months," said Hudson at a Financial Times organized event Event.
Sanofi, who has called for greater European coordination in the search for a vaccine and has financial support from the United States, made it clear that such a vaccine would be made available to everyone.
There is no vaccine and no known treatment for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. Drug manufacturers strive to develop a lucrative price, but have sought financial support to mitigate the risks.
Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects against COVID-19. One is with UK rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc, which has received funding from the U.S. Department of Health's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the other with Translate Bio, which will use a different technology.
Given BARDA's support, Sanofi's US-made cans are expected to go to US patients first, which is cause for concern in Europe.
"A vaccine against COVID-19 should be a public good for the world. Everyone's equal access to the virus is not negotiable," Philippe said on Thursday.
Philippe said he had reaffirmed this message to Sanofi's chairman, Serge Weinberg, who, in return, had assured the prime minister of the distribution of a Sanofi vaccine in France.
Hudson's first comments annoyed President Emmanuel Macron, an Elysee Palace official said. An official of the presidency will meet with representatives of Sanofi next week, the official added.
Sanofi has 18 production sites in France.
Hudson said that Europe has no body similar to BARDA.
"This model does not exist in Europe," he said, although governments supported the establishment of such a model.
The controversy has raised questions as to whether Europe has reacted too slowly to organize and fund vaccine research. Sanofi repeated on Thursday that the United States had acted faster in this regard.
The charity Oxfam said pharmaceutical companies shouldn't be able to decide "who lives and who dies".
Officials meeting at the World Health Assembly next week must demand that vaccines and tests be patent-free, Oxfam said in a statement. They should also be fairly distributed across all countries.
"Governments must work together to prevent companies from benefiting from the pandemic and save the lives of people around the world," said Oxfam.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)