” This has not been easy. A number of challenges had to be faced in record time: ordering suitable equipment, recruiting additional staff, ensuring stocks of bottles, caps, filters, while these products were under significant pressure in the industry. ‘supply…’, says Stéphane Lepeu, Deputy CEO of Delpharm. But the French subcontractor rose to the challenge. After five months of hard work, its plant in Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre (Eure-et-Loir) began, in April, the bottling of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It is the first to produce vaccines against Covid-19 on French soil. A performance that did not fail to greet Emmanuel Macron, visiting the site on April 9. “Producing the vaccine in France means speeding up vaccination, strengthening our industrial and health sovereignty”, tweeted the President of the Republic.
Soon, Delpharm will be joined in this national effort by two other manufacturers, the Swedish Recipharm, in Monts (Indre-et-Loire), and Fareva, in Idron (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) and Val-de-Reuil (Eure) – which will respectively take care of bottling the vaccines of Moderna and CureVac -, then, this summer, by the pharmaceutical group Sanofi, whose site of Marcy-l’Etoile (Rhône), near Lyon, will work on behalf of by Johnson & Johnson. In total, the four manufacturers are expected to ship some 250 million doses from their factories in 2021.
If France can finally be proud of producing vaccines against Covid-19 on its soil, it remains however confined to a role of subcontractor and intervenes only in the last stages of the production chain: formulation, filling , packaging and distribution. Operations “Technologically very advanced” and “Only a few professionals know how to do”, hammered the Minister Delegate for Industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, on RMC radio on April 16. But that does not obscure a finding: the production of active ingredients – molecules that allow treatment -, carried out in other countries of the European continent (Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands), indeed escapes the control. ‘Hexagon.
Reclaiming health sovereignty
The pill is bitter. And underlines another disappointment, that of not yet having succeeded in developing a vaccine against the Covid-19 stamped made in France, when Germany is preparing, after the success of BioNTech, to see another of its young people shoots, CureVac, achieve it. The French flagship Sanofi – the only pharmaceutical group today capable of producing a large-scale vaccine from start to finish on French soil – has fallen behind in the global race. His vaccine should only be available – at best – in the fall.
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