Angela Merkel has a whole new reason to be ticked off at President Trump and I couldn’t be happier. Today Merkel’s administration is discussing a report that the Trump administration offered a German company a whole lot of money for research on a COVID-19 vaccine being developed.
The alleged offer was made to CureVac, a private German pharmaceutical company currently working on a vaccine after a March 2 meeting at the White House. Chief executive Daniel Menichella attended a meeting with Vice-President Pence’s coronavirus task force and said, “We are very confident that we will be able to develop a potent vaccine candidate within a few months.” President Trump briefly attended.
Four days ago CureVac announced that Menichella, who is an American, was leaving the company. He headed the company for two years. No reason was given. One of the firm’s founders, Ingmar Hoerr, is succeeding him. Menichella was thanked for his contributions, including starting the coronavirus vaccine program. As word spread from unconfirmed sources, German officials became concerned that the Trump administration was trying to poach valuable research information to monopolize the market.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, asked to confirm a report the administration was attempting to secure exclusive rights to any vaccine created by the German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac, said he had “heard from several other members of government today that is the case.”
Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported Sunday that the administration wanted to secure the rights and move research and development to the United States. The vaccine would be developed “only for the USA,” the newspaper said.
Seehofer said the issue would be discussed in Monday’s regular coronavirus crisis committee meeting, which is expected to include representatives of the Health Ministry and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.
The newspaper also reported that the German government was making counter-offers to CureVac. The Trump administration isn’t saying much about the report but CureVac isn’t the only company the administration is speaking to about vaccine research and development. They have spoken to more than 25 companies and call the story on CureVac as “wildly overplayed”. “We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help. And any solution found would be shared with the world,” the U.S. official added. The U.S. Ambassador to Germany and the acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, tweeted the report is “not true”. He says that now there is backpedaling from news organizations that ran with the story.
Not true. The Welt story was wrong. But Business Insider, Reuters and others went with it anyway despite not having their own sources. Now everyone is back peddling. https://t.co/88UohluwTj
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) March 15, 2020
This tweet from CureVac on Monday morning specifically denies the newspaper report.
To make it clear again on coronavirus: CureVac has not received from the US government or related entities an offer before, during and since the Task Force meeting in the White House on March 2. CureVac rejects all allegations from press.
— CureVac (@CureVacRNA) March 16, 2020
How much clearer can it get? Let Merkel and her administration get all torqued up if they want to over a story that is false. The main point is that companies are working on a vaccine. If CureVac is receiving counter-offers to an offer that wasn’t even made, so be it. Let the German government give the company an incentive to remain where it is. The German newspaper story used unnamed sources as often happens when a news outlet is running a story that it hopes shows the Trump administration in a bad light. The unnamed sources weren’t even clear if the alleged monetary offer was for the research or for the right to produce the vaccine.
The privately held biotechnology firm has its headquarters in the southwestern city of Tübingen, Germany. It also has an office in Boston, where many of the nation’s leading biotech firms have operations around the Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology campuses.
According to the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag, which first reported the story on Sunday, Mr. Trump offered CureVac roughly $1 billion in exchange for exclusive access to the vaccine. The newspaper quoted an unnamed German government source who said Mr. Trump wanted the resulting vaccine “only for the United States.”
But another German official, reached by The New York Times, said it was unclear whether the administration simply wanted the research work, and for any resulting production to be on American soil.
The New York Times article goes on to state that “the Trump administration has been unusually aggressive in attempting to get American control of companies that deal in technology Mr. Trump views as central to American security.”
Good. I sure hope so. I realize that to the critics of President Trump and his administration, no story is too outlandish to publish. This story, though, won’t have the reaction from most Americans that liberal-leaning media outlets hope it will. Most Americans expect President Trump to aggressively protect Americans, it’s why they voted for him. Trump is a businessman, not a career politician happy with the status quo. The public health professionals on the coronavirus task force are working to find a vaccine for the pandemic. Let’s hope their actions are aggressive.
Trump plays to win, we all know that. CureVac is a private company. It is not state-owned. The man heading up the vaccine program is an American, Mr. Menichella. We don’t know if an offer was actually made but the company is denying it. If an offer was made, it would be fine by me. As far as the concerns of some German officials that the U.S. would selfishly keep the vaccine only for Americans, that’s ridiculous. America is the most generous country in the world. That sort of concern is a slap at Trump, not based on reality.
It’s like on the state level in the U.S. when a state’s governor aggressively looks to recruit companies to move to his or her state. When Governor Perry was in office in Texas, he was known for doing that. Call it poaching or call it anything else you want, it’s the job of top leadership to protect the welfare of Americans. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should all be hoping the Trump administration is doing everything possible to help the research and then the testing process of a vaccine. It won’t help right now but it will next year if it comes back. Let’s not do what happened during the SARS epidemic when a possible vaccine was developed but then was never tested.
Merkel is barely hanging on to her power. She’s not running for re-election. Germany only partially closed its borders 24 hours ago to help quell the pandemic from entering the country. Merkel could take a page or two from the U.S. playbook.