BERLIN (Dispatches) -- German ministers have reacted angrily following reports U.S. president Donald Trump offered a German medical company "large sums of money” for exclusive rights to a Covid-19 vaccine.
"Germany is not for sale,” economy minister Peter Altmaier told broadcaster ARD, reacting to a front page report in Welt am Sonntag newspaper headlined "Trump vs Berlin”.
The newspaper reported Trump offered $1 billion to Tübingen-based biopharmaceutical company CureVac to secure the vaccine "only for the United States”.
The German government was reportedly offering its own financial incentives for the vaccine to stay in the country.
The report prompted fury in Berlin. "German researchers are taking a leading role in developing medication and vaccines as part of global cooperation networks,” foreign minister Heiko Maas told the Funke Mediengruppe research network. "We cannot allow a situation where others want to exclusively acquire the results of their research,” said Maas, of the centre-left SPD.
"International cooperation is important now, not national self-interest,” said Erwin Rüddel, a conservative lawmaker on the German parliament’s health committee.
Christian Lindner, leader of the liberal FDP party, accused Trump of electioneering, saying: "Obviously Trump will use any means available in an election campaign.”
The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said a takeover of CureVac by the Trump administration was "off the table”. CureVac would only develop vaccine "for the whole world”, Spahn said, "not for individual countries”.
Worldwide infections have grown to more than more than 86,000, according to the Johns Hopkins university tracker, while cases inside China stood at 80,860 as of Monday. Deaths outside China have risen to more than 3,241, while deaths in mainland China stood at 3,208 as of Monday.
At a news conference on Sunday, interior minister Horst Seehofer was asked to confirm the attempts to court the German company. "I can only say that I have heard several times today from government officials today that this is the case, and we will be discussing it in the crisis committee tomorrow,” he said.
CureVac, founded in 2000, is based in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, and has other sites in Frankfurt and Boston.
The firm markets itself as specializing in "development of treatments against cancer, antibody-based therapies, treatment of rare illnesses and prophylactic vaccines”.
The lab is working in tandem with the Paul-Ehrlich Institute, linked to the German health ministry.