France says any Sanofi COVID-19 vaccine for the world, no favourites

PARIS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – France said on Thursday that the world’s nations would have equal access to any coronavirus vaccine developed by pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi (SASY.PA), a day after the CEO suggested that Americans would likely be the first in line.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Sanofi is seen at the company’s headquarters in Paris, France, April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump said he was mobilising the military to distribute a vaccine when one became available as scientists across the world rushed to find cures and treatments for a disease that has killed nearly 300,000 people worldwide.

More than 90 vaccines are currently being developed globally, with eight in the clinical trial phase. But experts say the process could take years and may not happen at all.

There is still no vaccine for HIV, which emerged in the early 1980s, or SARS, a coronavirus that hit Asia in 2002.

“A vaccine against COVID-19 should be a public good for the world. The equal access of all to the virus is non-negotiable,” French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday.

He was speaking after comments by CEO Paul Hudson, who said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Wednesday: “The U.S. government has the right to the largest preorder because it’s invested in taking the risk.”

The comments had upset President Emmanuel Macron, an Elysee official said.

Sanofi, which has urged stronger European coordination in the hunt for a vaccine and has U.S. financial support, clarified that any such vaccine would be made available to all.

Hudson said on Thursday it was vital that any coronavirus vaccine reach all regions and he was sorry that his earlier remarks had created such a storm.

Sanofi is working on two vaccines project, one with British rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L) that has received financial support from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Health Department and another with U.S. company Translate Bio that will use different technology.

Trump, who faces re-election in November and is pushing for an early re-opening of the economy despite the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, said he believed there would be a vaccine by the end of the year.

“Our military is now being mobilised so at the end of the year, we’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network.

His timetable conflicted with that given by his top infectious disease expert in Senate testimony on Tuesday.

Anthony Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, said the idea that there would be a vaccine available by the autumn, when schools and universities resume classes, was “a bridge too far”.

Fauci and other U.S. health experts have said it would likely be at least a year before a vaccine was available. He also told the Senate he was cautiously optimistic there would be one.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked by Israel’s Kan 11 News whether Israel would be ahead in the line to share any vaccine, said he hoped it would be shared across the globe.


More than 4.37 million people have been reported to be infected globally and 296,257 have died, according to a Reuters tally. The United States has the highest death toll at 83,720.

The World Health Organization is leading a global initiative to develop a vaccine.

“We do have some treatments that seem to be in very early studies limiting the severity or the length of the illness but we do not have anything that can kill or stop the virus,” spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a briefing in Geneva.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), which approves medicines for the European Union, said on Thursday a vaccine could be approved in about a year in an “optimistic” scenario.

The EU, some of whose members have been among the hardest hard hit by the pandemic, fears it may not have sufficient supplies, especially if a vaccine were developed in the United States or China.

The EMA’s head of vaccines, Marco Cavaleri, was sceptical that a vaccine could be ready by the autumn.

“For vaccines, since the development has to start from scratch…we might look from an optimistic side in a year from now, so beginning of 2021,” he said in Amsterdam.

The European Commission, the EU executive branch, is weighing using a $2.6 billion emergency fund to boost pharmaceutical labs’ capacity, fearing that even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed the EU may not be able to produce enough shots, a document seen by Reuters shows.

Gilead Science Inc (GILD.O) says its antiviral drug remdesivir has helped improve outcomes for COVID-19 patients.

Results of a trial in Hong Kong released this month showed a triple drug combination of antiviral medicines helped relieve symptoms in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 infection and swiftly reduced the amount of virus in their bodies.

Reporting by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem, Emma Farge in Geneva and Henri-Pierre André and Jean-Stéphane Brosse in Paris; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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