Pharma execs cash in on expensive Covid vaccines while billions wait inoculation
MANILA, Philippines—Nine new billionaires were created by excessive profits in the manufacture of coronavirus vaccines, a global alliance revealed.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA) said its analysis of recent Forbes Rich List data showed massive wealth is being generated from the Covid pandemic and executives of corporations manufacturing vaccines are cashing in.
“Between them, the nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times,” the PVA– whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)—revealed Thursday ahead of this year’s G20 leaders Global Health Summit in Rome, Italy.
“Meanwhile, these countries have received only 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines, because of the massive shortfall in available doses, despite being home to 10 per cent of the world’s population,” the alliance added.
Among the new billionaires are executives of successful Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers Moderna, Pfizer’s BioNTech and CanSino Biologics.
The PVA said the nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:
- Stéphane Bancel – Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3 billion)
- Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4 billion)
- Timothy Springer – an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
- Noubar Afeyan – Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9 billion)
- Juan Lopez-Belmonte– Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8 billion)
- Robert Langer – a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6 billion)
- Zhu Tao co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3 billion)
- Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2)
- Mao Huinhoa, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1 billion)
The Philippines imports vaccines from both Moderna and BioNTech. The Department of Health told the Senate that two doses of Moderna cost PHP3,904 while BioNTech cost PHP2,379.
In addition, eight existing billionaires– who have extensive portfolios in the Covid vaccine pharmaceutical corporations – have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, the PVA said.
The added wealth created through the manufacture of the vaccines are enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India, a country most affected by the pandemic, the alliance added.
PVA said the eight vaccine billionaires who saw their wealth increase are:
|Name||Role/description||$ billions 2021||$ billions 2020|
|Jiang Rensheng & family||Chair, Zhifei Biological products||$ 24.40||$ 7.60|
|Cyrus Poonawalla||Founder, Serum Institute of India||$ 12.70||$ 8.20|
|Tse Ping||Sinopharm||$ 8.90||$ 7.30|
|Wu Guanjiang||Co-founder, Zhifei Biological products||$ 5.10||$ 1.80|
|Thomas Struengmann & family||portfolio includes Germany’s BioNTech and Uruguay’s Mega Pharma||$ 11.00||$ 9.60|
|Andreas Struengmann & family||portfolio includes Germany’s BioNTech and Uruguay’s Mega Pharma||$ 11.00||$ 9.60|
|Pankaj Patel||controls listed company Cadila Healthcare. The company now manufactures drugs to treat Covid-19 such as Remdesivir from Gilead. Its Covid-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D, is undergoing clinical trials.||$ 5.00||$ 2.90|
|Patrick Soon-Shiong||ImmunityBio – selected for the US federal government’s “Operation Warp Speed” to help quickly develop a Covid-19 vaccine.||$ 7.50||$ 6.40|
PVA said expectation of huge profits from the Covid vaccines created the billionaires as stocks in pharmaceutical firms are rising rapidly.
The alliance warned that the monopolies allow pharmaceutical corporations total control over the supply and price of vaccines, pushing up their profits while making it harder for poor countries such as the Philippines to secure the stocks they need.
The PVA said that Covid vaccines should be manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.
Philippine vaccine procurement chief Carlito Galvez has lamented the difficulties the Philippines faces in procuring vaccines amid limited global supply.
At an online meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council last April, Galvez said: “The Philippines remains resolute in championing a policy of ensuring universal, fair, equitable, and timely access to Covid-19 vaccines.”
The faces of vaccine profits
In a statement, international humanitarian and development organization Oxfam said the billionaires are the faces of the huge profits created by the “monopolous” pharmaceutical corporations.
“What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe,” Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager Anna Marriott said.
Marriot said the development of the vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity.
The campaigner urged the end of the “monopoly” to allow for greater vaccine production, the lowering of their prices and faster inoculation of the world’s population.
Earlier this month the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization to temporarily break up the so-called monopolies and lift the patents on COVID-19 vaccines.
This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and, in recent days, countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has Pope Francis and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates, the PVA said.
Rich countries as enablers of huge profits
The call for the faster manufacture of cheaper Covid vaccines are falling on deaf ears, however, with at least two of the richest countries blocking the proposal, the PVA revealed.
The group added that Italy, host of the G20 Global Health Summit today, continues to sit on the fence on the issue, as are Canada and France.
“As thousands of people die each day in India, it is utterly repugnant that the UK, Germany and others want to put the interests of the billionaire owners of Big Pharma ahead of the desperate needs of millions,” Global Justice Now senior policy and campaigns manager Heidi Chow said.
UNAIDS executive director Winnie Byanyima for her part said: “While the companies making massive profits from COVID vaccines are refusing to share their science and technology with others in order to increase the global vaccine supply, the world continues to face the very real risk of mutations that could render the vaccines we have ineffective and put everyone at risk all over again.”
“The pandemic has come at a terrible human cost, so it is obscene that profits continue to come before saving lives” Byanyima added.
The PVA said that Covid vaccines should be manufactured rapidly and at scale, as global common goods, free of intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)