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French pharma giant Sanofi in talks to help manufacture extra Covid-19 vaccines

Sanofi, France's biggest pharmaceutical company, could help produce foreign-developed Covid-19 vaccines pending the launch of its own vaccine, which will not be ready for months, a government minister said on Friday.

French pharma giant Sanofi in talks to help manufacture extra Covid-19 vaccines
Sanofi's own vaccine will not be ready for months, but it could help produce other vaccines. Photo: AFP

Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told Radio Classique that vaccines developed by BioNTech, which partners with Pfizer, and Janssen, owned by Johnson and Johnson, were the most likely choices for Sanofi to lend a helping hand.

The world has been scrambling to develop and produce enough anti-Covid vaccines, with innoculation drives hampered by limited stocks of doses and logistical constraints. 

France had high hopes that its national champion Sanofi would contribute to a first wave of coronavirus inoculations, but the company's vaccine will not be ready before the end of the year.

READ ALSO How to book a vaccine appointment in France

Pannier-Runacher said she had therefore begun talks with Sanofi to act as a sub-contractor for other firms while it completed its own Covid jabs.

“We are looking at this together with them,” she said, “and they are examining with BioNTech on the one hand and Janssen on the other whether it would be possible.”

Sanofi itself told AFP that it was evaluating “the technical feasibility of temporarily carrying out some production stages to support other makers of Covid-19 vaccines,” without naming either BioNTech or Janssen.

Talks were still “at a very preliminary stage,” it said.

Pannier-Runacher said the main question was whether Sanofi had the spare capacity to make the doses in three to five months, with active ingredients adding another a few months, in a process “that usually takes 12 to 18 months.”

The minister rejected criticism of Sanofi's tardiness in developing its vaccine, saying the company was only “three months late” compared to its July target, and that its performance was still “extraordinary.”

Delpharm, a French sub-contractor for the pharmaceutical industry, said in November that it would produce the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine in its factory in northwestern France.

Recipharm, another sub-contractor, will be producing the vaccine developed by Moderna starting late February or early March, Pannier-Runacher said last week.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Friday that any vaccines produced in France would be part of the total number of doses ordered by the European Union, and distributed in France as part of the national quota negotiated between EU members.

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HEALTH

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With France in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19, the country's health minister has urged the public to once again wear face masks on public transport and in crowded spaces.

French public urged to wear face masks again on public transport

With cases on the rise again, French Health Minister Brigitte Bourguignon said she is “[asking] the French to put masks back on in transport” in an interview with RTL on Monday, 

For the time being, however, she stressed it was just advice, rather than an obligation, and masks have in fact been recommended on public transport since the legal requirement to wear them was lifted in May. 

However with France reporting over 50,000 daily cases of Covid-19 the government is clearly concerned by the current wave of the pandemic.

Bourguignon said that “we must protect ourselves and protect others,” adding that wearing a mask is “a civic gesture.”

She urged people to don their masks as soon as they see a crowded train or station.

READ MORE: Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

In addition to public transport, Bourguignon is also asking the French to once again mask-up in “all crowded, enclosed areas.”

Currently, masks are only required in hospitals, health centres and places that have vulnerable residents such as nursing homes. They are recommended in crowded spaces where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

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