The Donald Trump administration offered “large sums of money” to get exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a German company, Die Welt reported Sunday.
According to the article, Trump was trying to get the Tübingen-based CureVac company — which also has sites in Frankfurt and Boston — to move its research wing to the United States and develop the vaccine “for the U.S. only.”
A spokesperson for Germany’s Health Ministry quoted in the article appeared to acknowledge the U.S. approach and said that Berlin was “very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe.”
On Sunday afternoon, Germany’s Health Ministry told Reuters that its spokesperson had been quoted correctly in the newspaper article, confirming that Washington had attempted to take over the biopharmaceutical company. Government sources indicated that Berlin was now offering CureVac financial incentives to remain in Germany.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said at a press conference Sunday that he had heard about the CureVac reports and that it would be discussed at a crisis team meeting Monday.
Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, said on Twitter that the Welt report was “wrong.”
Last week CureVac CEO Daniel Menichella was among the pharmaceutical representatives invited to the White House to discuss coronavirus vaccine development with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and members of the president’s Coronavirus Task Force.
In a press release, the company said that Menichella had told U.S. officials about the vaccines it had in development, and revealed its hope to have an experimental vaccine ready by early summer.
The news prompted angry reactions from German politicians who demanded that Berlin do everything possible to prevent the U.S. from controlling access to an eventual coronavirus vaccine.
“The American regime has committed an extremely unfriendly act,” said Social Democrat MP Karl Lauterbach, who said that German health workers on the front lines — as well as people around the world — needed to have access to something developed in Germany, and that no country should be able to purchase exclusive access to the vaccine.
“Capitalism has limits,” he said.