$36 billion. No wonder they want everyone vaccinated:
Also, are we just going to gloss over the fact that the “recipe” for the vaccine is secret?
That’s a little concerning, no?
Eh, whatever. It’s FDA approved! The FDA is always looking out for us.
Two of the most powerful figures in the fight against the pandemic faced off in July during a closed-door virtual summit on how to get more vaccines to the world’s poorest people.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, called out a “shocking imbalance” in the supply of vaccines. He said it was unacceptable that manufacturers pursuing the highest prices had overwhelmingly supplied rich countries—and now were pushing booster shots for the same wealthy few—according to a half-dozen people who were listening. “Honestly I’m not seeing the commitment I would expect from you,” Tedros told the vaccine developers on the call.
Pfizer Inc. chief executive Albert Bourla, whose company’s miracle shot has inoculated more than a billion people, responded, saying Tedros was speaking “emotionally.”
“Actually, I’m not being emotional,” Tedros said, stressing that there was an urgent need to get more vaccines into arms.
Their previously unreported exchange laid bare an uncomfortable truth: Vaccine inequality didn’t happen by itself. It was the result of decisions by corporate executives and government officials. Nearly a year after the first shots went into arms, Western vaccine producers and public health officials are still struggling to find common ground to close a yawning gap between some nations; only 6% of people in Africa were fully inoculated as of early November. A sticking point in that effort is who gets to control secret vaccine formulas worth billions of dollars.
If that vaccine formula was no longer secret, then it wouldn’t be worth $36 billion to Pfizer, would it?
Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson began a year ago on similar footing—sending most of their doses to wealthy countries rather than poor ones. But then they took different paths, data compiled by London-based Airfinity shows.
Moderna, which had never produced a licensed drug product before Covid, barely expanded from supplying wealthier nations until recently, mostly because of export restrictions and early supply commitments to the U.S. and Europe, Chief Executive Officer Stephane Bancel told Bloomberg on Nov. 1. The single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which arrived months after the three others, turned out to be a relatively small player. AstraZeneca, which initially pledged to sell its vaccine at cost during the pandemic, quickly ramped up its supply to poorer countries, largely by licensing its formula to a producer in India.
Whoa, I knew Moderna was a new-ish kind of company, but I didn’t know the Covid vaccine was their first licensed drug product ever.
Yeah, no thanks, bro.
Then there was Pfizer. With its German partner BioNTech, the New York-based company produces and distributes the biggest supply of one of the most effective vaccines, which is expected to generate $36 billion in revenue this year. The distribution data show Pfizer is the No. 1 Covid vaccine source for the wealthiest countries. Pfizer further cemented its front-runner status in the pandemic when it announced in early November that it had developed a Covid pill that cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89%. It hasn’t spelled out how it will price or distribute the pill, but since production is limited in the near term, vaccines remain the central weapon against the pandemic.
Twenty bucks the pill is just ivermectin under a different name at a massive mark-up.
Yet there is one point on which the Pfizer CEO won’t budge: his vaccine’s secret formula. Countries led by India and South Africa have been pushing a proposal at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual-property rights for Covid vaccines and treatments. Bourla, who has called IP rights the “blood of the private sector,” has been the most outspoken among fellow CEOs in resisting calls to share his technology—even though proponents say it would mean, in theory, that others could produce more doses.
Okay, but the whole point is to maintain Pfizer’s near-monopoly on the vaccine.
Moderna, which will generate less than half of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine revenue, is expected by analysts to earn $12.2 billion before taxes this year. Johnson & Johnson pledged to sell its vaccines at no profit during the pandemic. AstraZeneca switched to a for-profit model on Nov. 12, saying the pandemic was moving into an “endemic” phase—one in which the disease is only found among particular people or in certain areas.
Wait a second, I don’t remember hearing about AstraZeneca saying that. That should be massive news.
Anyway, if you want to go read the article yourself, go ahead.
But to me, the main takeaways here are as follows:
- Pfizer is making $36 billion off the vaccines.
- Moderna is making $12 billion and has never before produced a licensed drug.
- AstraZeneca said Covid is weakening into endemic phase, and nobody in the US mainstream media has even mentioned this.