German lawmakers and government officials voiced outrage at reporting Sunday that the Trump administration is seeking to secure exclusive rights to a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by the German firm CureVac as the pandemic spreads and takes lives across the globe.
The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, citing an anonymous German government official, reported Sunday that the Trump administration offered CureVac $1 billion to hand the U.S. exclusive rights to a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Trump wants the vaccine "only for the USA," the German official said. The New York Times confirmed late Sunday that the Trump administration attempted to persuade CureVac to move its research to the U.S., offering the company what one German official described as a "large sum" of money.
"International cooperation is important now, not national self-interest," said conservative lawmaker Erwin Rueddel, a member of the German parliament's health committee.
This is depraved. The German government confirms that Trump apparently tried to bribe German scientists into giving him exclusive rights to the Covid-19 vaccine they were working on developing. He wanted it “for the US only.” How many new lows will he set for the United States? https://t.co/Qm7vFoArQT
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) March 15, 2020
The original story in Die Welt said Trump wanted not only to control any new vaccine but also to make sure that it would only be available on a for-profit basis. https://t.co/1oKnnHphLx
— Joshua Holland (@JoshuaHol) March 15, 2020
Led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, German government ministers on Monday are planning to convene a crisis meeting that will include discussion of CureVac, which is headquartered in Tübingen, Germany but also has an office in Boston, Massachusetts.
"Top White House aides were unaware of any communication by or offer from President Trump to CureVac," the Washington Post reported, citing an anonymous administration official. "The official cautioned, however, that Trump often has private conversations of which his staff is not aware, and therefore the official could not definitively rule out that any such discussion had occurred."
The Trump administration has faced backlash for refusing to vow that any COVID-19 vaccine will be affordable for all in the U.S.—let alone free, as progressives and public health experts are demanding.
"We would want to ensure that we'd work to make it affordable, but we can't control that price because we need the private sector to invest," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a congressional hearing last month.
Reuters reported Sunday that CureVac has "started with a multitude of coronavirus vaccine candidates and was now selecting the two best to go into clinical trials."
"The privately-held company... hopes to have an experimental vaccine ready by June or July to then seek the go-ahead from regulators for testing on humans," Reuters noted.
Christof Hettich, chief executive of Dievini Hopp Biotech Holding, CureVac's main investor, told the German newspaper Mannheimer Morgen on Sunday that it has no plans to allow any nation to purchase exclusive rights to a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
"We want to develop a vaccine for the whole world, and not for individual countries," said Hettich.