Prior to the meetings of shareholders of major pharmaceutical corporations, the People’s Vaccine Alliance estimates that Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have paid $ 26 billion in dividends and share repurchases to their shareholders in the past 12 months.
That would be enough to pay for the vaccination of at least 1.3 billion people, equivalent to the population of Africa.
The Peoples Vaccine Alliance is working on a free vaccine for everyone. It is a movement of health, humanitarian and human rights organizations, world leaders of the past and present, health experts, religious leaders and economists who advocate that COVID-19 vaccines be manufactured quickly and on a scale, as global common goods, free from intellectual property protections and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.
Oxfam International, in a press release released Thursday before Big Pharma’s shareholders’ meeting this and next week, said: “This is a public health emergency, not a private profit opportunity.”
Oxfam’s health policy manager, Anna Marriott, said: “We must not allow companies to decide who lives and who dies while increasing their profits. We need a vaccine for people, not a profitable vaccine. “
“Vaccinating apartheid is not a natural phenomenon, but the result of governments backing down and allowing companies to make decisions. Instead of creating new vaccine billionaires, we need to vaccinate billions in developing countries. It is amazing that Big Pharma is making big payments to wealthy shareholders in the face of this global health emergency, ”said Marriott.
“The Peoples Vaccine does not endorse a price of $ 19. Prices can and should be much lower than that to make vaccination possible in the world,” quoted Oxfam citing the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
Shareholder meetings began on April 22 with Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson, followed by Moderna and Astra Zeneca in the coming weeks.
Protests are expected outside the US and UK meetings, while investors inside the meetings will come forward with resolutions to expand access to the vaccine. There is a growing reaction against the de facto privatization of successful Covid-19 vaccines and pressure on pharmaceutical companies to openly license intellectual property and share technology and know-how with qualified vaccine producers worldwide.
While the global economy remains frozen due to the slow and uneven launch of vaccines worldwide, the increasing actions of vaccine manufacturers have created a new wave of billionaires.
The founder of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, is now worth $ 5.9 billion and the CEO of Moderna, Stephane Bancel, $ 5.2 billion. According to regulatory documents, Bancel has already drawn more than US $ 142 million in Modern shares since the beginning of the pandemic. Many other investors have also become billionaires in recent months, while the International Chamber of Commerce projects a GDP loss in the worst scenario of $ 9 trillion due to the global inequality in the vaccine.
Although one in four citizens of wealthy nations has already had the vaccine, only one in 500 people in poorer countries has, which means that the death toll continues to rise as the virus remains out of control. Epidemiologists are predicting that we have less than a year before mutations can render current vaccines ineffective.
One of the reasons that pharmaceutical companies have managed to generate such large profits is because of intellectual property rules that restrict production to a handful of companies.
Last week, 175 former heads of state and Nobel Prize winners, including Gordon Brown, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Francoise Hollande wrote to President Biden to support the temporary waiver of Covid-19 vaccine intellectual property rights to allow for the rapid increase vaccine production worldwide.
They join the 1.5 million people in the United States and other nations who have signaled their support for People’s Vaccine. More than 100 low- and middle-income nations, led by India and South Africa, are calling on the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections on Covid-19 products during the pandemic, a measure so far contested by the U.S. , EU and other rich nations.