Berlin is trying to stop Washington from persuading a German company seeking a coronavirus vaccine to move its research to the United States, prompting German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.
German government sources told Reuters on Sunday that the US administration was looking into how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by a German firm, CureVac.
Earlier, the Welt am Sonntag German newspaper reported that US President Donald Trump had offered funds to lure CureVac to the United States, and the German government was making counter-offers to tempt it to stay.
Responding to the report, the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, wrote on Twitter: “The Welt story was wrong.”
A US official said: “This story is 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.”
A German Health Ministry spokeswoman, confirming a quote in the newspaper, said: “The German government is very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe.”
“In this regard, the government is in intensive exchange with the company CureVac,” she added.
Welt am Sonntag quoted an unidentified German government source as saying Trump was trying to secure the scientists’ work exclusively, and would do anything to get a vaccine for the United States, “but only for the United States.”
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told a news conference that the government’s coronavirus crisis committee would discuss the CureVac case on Monday.
CureVac issued a statement on Sunday, in which it said: “The company rejects current rumors of an acquisition”.
CureVac’s main investor Dietmar Hopp said he was not selling and wanted CureVac to develop a coronavirus vaccine to “help people not just regionally but in solidarity across the world.”
“I would be glad if this could be achieved through my long-term investments out of Germany,” he added.
A German Economy Ministry spokeswoman said Berlin “has a great interest” in producing vaccines in Germany and Europe.