PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday he’s a fan of the U.S. “Operation Warp Speed” coronavirus vaccine effort and lamented that Europe moved more slowly.
In a meeting with a group of reporters in Paris, including POLITICO, Macron said he was “very admiring” of the “extremely innovative model” that the Trump administration put in place to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
By comparison, he admitted “Europe had a slower strategy.” But he said it was important to remember that the European Commission was moving into new territory when it got involved in vaccine development and procurement.
“We are asking the [European] Commission to do something that isn’t within its competence when it is the role of the federal government in the United States,” he said.
But beyond that, U.S. authorities also knew how to be more flexible and pioneering in their approach to the vaccine effort, which required unprecedented speed using extremely new technology.
“I also think it’s a question of state of mind,” Macron said. “How do we do good science as quickly as possible? The Americans did this very well, much better than us.”
For Macron, the U.S. model is “less risk-averse” than the European one.
U.S. authorities were also bold in “believing in science” and accepting the shortening of clinical trials in favor of speeding up the vaccine authorization process, Macron said.
He said he’d like the EU to be bolder on that level, without cutting corners on the science.
“It’s my political DNA, I think our European institutions need to reconnect with that and we are sometimes perhaps too cautious,” Macron said.
The French president is a leading advocate of European “strategic autonomy” in fields like health and industry. But Macron acknowledged America’s leading role in vaccine development also benefitted Europe.
“What’s great is that we can benefit from what the Americans did, when they compressed the phase two and three of clinical trials, they allowed all of humanity to progress, it’s great.”
Two American companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have played leading roles in the global production of coronavirus vaccines. Pfizer developed its vaccine in partnership with German firm BioNTech.
Despite being home to the Pasteur Institute that cracked the HIV virus and is named after famed scientist Louis Pasteur who invented the vaccine against rabies, and to some major pharma companies like Sanofi, no French firm has produced an approved COVID-19 vaccine yet.