France is to dedicate €300 million to producing more Covid-19 vaccines on French soil in a bid to satisfy high levels of demand for the vaccination, amid government calls for the development of further projects to fight the virus.
Junior economy, industry and finance minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told news service FranceInfo: “I can today announce that we have launched a €300million initiative for projects that will allow us to manufacture more [vaccines] in France. And not just vaccines, but also treatments.”
The minister said that the government was on track on its vaccination targets but said the goal was to produce even more vaccines to meet the high demand.
She said: “The vaccinations and appointments are given in line with deliveries. We are working to the calendar given by the prime minister in terms of vaccination. Many people want to be vaccinated, which is very good news, because I remind you that this wasn’t the case in December, when there were many questions.
“So now there is added demand for appointments. Our aim is to produce more and to do so more quickly.
“We are working on it for the future. That was the entire premise of a meeting that we had with the President and many laboratories last Tuesday.”
Innovations to ‘reclaim France’s health sovereignty’
A first appeal for projects was launched on June 18, 2020.
In a statement published today, the industry ministry said: “The government has selected 12 projects, so far totalling €130 million, covering many existing pharmaceutical products (mainly medicines used in intensive care, drugs used in hospitals, [and] antibiotics) and new ones (Covid-19 vaccines and innovative therapies against Covid-19).
“Reclaiming France's industrial and health sovereignty in this respect means supporting the development and production of health products.
“This is why a call for expressions of interest, which will be allocated €300 million [...] is being published today to identify investment projects that will make it possible to develop research and very rapidly increase the production of medicines and vaccines.”
France-UK Valneva project advances
French vaccine developer Valneva has now started manufacturing its own vaccine and is continuing small-scale clinical trials started last month.
The first results are only expected in April and Phase III trials are yet to be confirmed.
Yet the company already has a deal with the UK government for 60 million doses by the end of 2021, should the vaccine “prove to be safe, effective, and suitable in its clinical trials this year,” UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.
Valneva has said it is also in “advanced discussions” with the EU for another 60 million doses.
The company has worked with the UK Vaccine Taskforce and National Institute for Health Research on its initial trials and the current manufacturing is taking place in Scotland.
This week, Valneva CEO Thomas Lingelbach said in a statement: “We believe that our vaccine, assuming successful development, can make a major contribution in the UK and beyond.”