PARIS (Reuters) – Sanofi chief executive Paul Hudson on Thursday said it was vital that any coronavirus vaccine reach all regions, hours after the pharmaceutical giant was admonished by the French government for suggesting some countries would get priority access.

Hudson said he understood why his remarks on Wednesday that any vaccine developed by Sanofi in the United States could go to U.S. patients first had created such a storm.

But he added that real debate was needed in Europe over how European Union countries could move faster collectively in the hunt for a new vaccine and that Sanofi had been pushing the bloc for months to do so.

“I’ve been campaigning on European readiness to treat COVID-19 for months … building capacity in Europe, making sure we are ready, getting governments in the EU aligned,” Hudson told an event organised by the Financial Times.

Sanofi is working on two vaccine projects against COVID-19, including one with British rival GlaxoSmithKline Plc that has received money from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) of the U.S. Health Department.

BARDA had been swift to collaborate with pharmaceuticals in the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine, he said.

“My comments are around whether we continue to make sure we are in a similar position in Europe,” Hudson said. “It was never a choice. We need to get vaccines to everybody around the world.”

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Sarah White; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Alison Williams and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)