Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna are making thousands of dollars in combined profits every minute from their COVID-19 vaccines, while less than 1 percent of each company’s doses have gone to the world’s poorest countries, according to a new analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA).
PVA, a coalition of organizations campaigning for wider access to COVID-19 vaccines, based its calculations on the firms’ latest company reports.
The Alliance estimates that the trio will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion this year between them, which works out to over $1,000 a second, $65,000 a minute, or $93.5 million a day. Combined, the billionaire owners of the three companies hold a net wealth of $35.1 billion.
PVA says the companies have sold the majority of vaccine doses to wealthier countries, leaving low-income countries under-vaccinated.
Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered less than 1 percent of their total vaccine supplies to low-income countries, PVA said, while Moderna has delivered just 0.2 percent. Meanwhile, 98 percent of people in low-income countries have not been fully vaccinated.
“It is obscene that just a few companies are making millions of dollars in profit every single hour, while just 2 percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus,” Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa said. “Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna have used their monopolies to prioritize the most profitable contracts with the richest governments, leaving low income countries out in the cold.”
PVA said that despite receiving over $8 billion in public funding, Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna have “refused calls to urgently transfer vaccine technology and know-how with capable producers in low- and middle-income countries via the World Health Organisation (WHO),” a move that it says “could increase global supply, drive down prices, and save millions of lives.”
“We do not recognise the estimate made by the People’s Vaccine Alliance,” Pfizer told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “From day one of our vaccine development programme, Pfizer and BioNTech have been committed to fair and equitable access of our COVID-19 vaccine.
“The companies have been transparent about the tiered pricing structure in place for high, middle, and low/lower-middle-income countries.”
Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Back in September, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to hold off on giving COVID-19 booster shots through September so poorer nations can provide citizens with their first dose of the vaccine.
The WHO Director-General told reporters that some low-income countries, including many in Africa, have less than 2 percent of their adult populations fully vaccinated. By contrast, some high-income countries have adult vaccination rates of 50 percent.
PVA specifically called out Moderna, which it said has received pressure from both the White House and the WHO to collaborate on and help accelerate its plan to to share its technology to replicate the Moderna vaccine for wider production at its mRNA hub in South Africa.
In October, Moderna said it would make up to 110 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine available to African countries.
Last May, Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla described the idea of sharing intellectual property rights and vaccine recipes as “nonsense” and even “dangerous,” but PVA said that the WHO emergency use approval of the Indian vaccine Covaxin earlier this month is “clear evidence that developing countries have the capacity and expertise.”
While the three companies are reportedly set to make billions in combined profits this year, vaccine makers AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, though both have recently announced they plan to end this arrangement in the future.
Jennifer Taubert, head of Johnson & Johnson’s pharma division, told reporters in October that the company will move into the commercial market at the end of 2022 or the start of 2023.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca last week unveiled plans to start selling the shots at “modest profitability.”
On Monday, Pfizer and a United Nations-backed group announced that the drugmaker would let outside companies make its COVID-19 pill.
“Pfizer remains committed to bringing forth scientific breakthroughs to help end this pandemic for all people. We believe oral antiviral treatments can play a vital role in reducing the severity of COVID-19 infections, decreasing the strain on our healthcare systems, and saving lives,” Bourla said in a statement.
The pill has not yet received clearance in any countries, but Pfizer plans to seek emergency use authorization from U.S. drug regulators soon, after a study indicated it was highly effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization or death when administered within three days of symptomatic COVID-19.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a statement from Pfizer.