France’s biggest pharmaceutical company to give the US preferential treatment over vaccines

Worker in Sanofi lab. Credit: Sanofi

France’s biggest pharmaceutical company to give the US preferential treatment over vaccines.

THE French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi has said that the US will have priority access to a Covid-19 vaccine if and when it develops one as the US offered more money to fund vaccine research.

“The US government has the right to the largest pre-order because it’s invested in taking the risk,” said Sanofi’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Hudson.

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Sanofi is one of the biggest among dozens of companies racing to develop a vaccine against the disease and it has partnered with UK rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc on the project supported by the US.

More than 90 vaccines are currently being developed against the disease, but experts say the large-scale manufacture of a successful vaccine may be as challenging as developing one.

The European Commission is weighing using a €2 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.

The head of Sanofi warned the EU in April that in the current pandemic the manufacturing of vaccines posed more challenges than their actual development.

“There is less concern about finding a successful vaccine than there is about making the volumes needed,” Hudson said.

Estimating production capacity needs is hard because nobody yet knows the composition of a potential Covid-19 shot or how many doses would be needed per person.

As vaccine production is limited, most states agree that a potential Covid-19 shot should initially be made available only to the elderly and other groups most vulnerable to the disease. Medics and nurses would also be on the priority list.

A sudden surge in vaccine demand caused by the development of a Covid-19 shot could put labs under extreme strain and also reduce the availability of other vaccines.

At a meeting last week, EU health experts discussed joining forces to buy flu shots before the next influenza season, “which is even more important due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic,” according to public minutes.

Discussions over joint procurement schemes for vaccines highlight the EU’s anxiety over its limited access to vital medical supplies, and the risk that EU states might otherwise bid against each other for access.

Many countries experienced shortages of medical equipment, devices and drugs to treat Covid-19 patients in March and April, and the EU fears shortages could occur again when a Covid-19 vaccine is available.


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