Nine people have become billionaires since the start of the COVID pandemic thanks to the excessive profits made by pharmaceutical companies with monopolies on COVID vaccines, the People’s Vaccine Alliance revealed at the G20 leaders’ meeting for the World Health Summit .
Read: The covid mask
Key G20 members – including UK and Germany – block measures to increase supply by ending corporate monopoly control over vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.
The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $ 19.3 billion – enough to fully immunize everyone in low-income countries 1.3 times. Meanwhile, these same low-income countries have only received 0.2% of the global vaccine supply while they are home to 10% of the world’s population.
In addition, eight existing billionaires – who have large portfolios in COVID-19 vaccine pharmaceutical companies – saw their combined wealth increase by $ 32.2 billion, enough to fully immunize everyone in India.
Activists from the People’s Vaccine Alliance – whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, analyzed data from the Forbes Rich List to highlight the enormous wealth generated for a handful of people from heavily funded vaccines. by the state.
Anna Marriott, Oxfam Health Policy Officer, said: âWhat a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we are rapidly creating new vaccine billionaires but utterly failing to immunize the billions who desperately need feel safe.
âThese billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical companies make from their monopoly on these vaccines. These vaccines have been publicly funded and should be primarily a global public good, not an opportunity for private profit. We urgently need to end these monopolies so that we can increase vaccine production, lower prices and immunize the world. “
Vaccine billionaires are being created as pharmaceutical companies’ inventories rapidly increase in anticipation of huge profits from the COVID-19 vaccines over which these companies have a monopoly. The alliance warned that these monopolies allow pharmaceutical companies to fully control the supply and price of vaccines, increasing their profits while making it harder for poor countries, in particular, to secure the stocks they need.
The vaccine billionaires:
- StÃ©phane Bancel – CEO of Moderna (worth $ 4.3 billion)
- Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $ 4 billion)
- Timothy Springer – Immunologist and Founding Investor of Moderna (worth $ 2.2 billion)
- Noubar Afeyan – President of Moderna (worth $ 1.9 billion)
- Juan Lopez-Belmonte – President of ROVI, a company with an agreement to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $ 1.8 billion)
- Robert Langer – scientist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $ 1.6 billion)
- Co-founder of Zhu Tao and Scientific Director of CanSino Biologics (worth $ 1.3 billion)
- Qiu Dongxu, Co-Founder and Senior Vice President of CanSino Biologics (valued at $ 1.2)
- Mao Huinhoa, also co-founder and senior vice president of CanSino Biologics (worth $ 1 billion)
Earlier this month, the United States backed South Africa and India’s proposals to the World Trade Organization to temporarily break those monopolies and lift patents on COVID-19 vaccines. The move has the support of more than 100 developing countries and, in recent days, countries like Spain have also declared their support, as have the Pope and more than 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.
Despite this, other wealthy countries, including the UK and Germany, continue to block the proposal, placing the interest of drug companies on what is best for the world. Italy, which will host the G20 World Health Summit tomorrow, continues to sit on the fence on the issue, as do Canada and France.
Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigner at Global Justice Now, said: âAs thousands of people die every day in India, it is absolutely disgusting that the UK, Germany and others want to do this. put the interests of Big Pharma’s billionaire owners first. desperate needs of millions of people.
“The highly effective vaccines we have are due to massive amounts of taxpayer dollars, so it can’t be fair that individuals are cashing in as hundreds of millions of people face second and third waves without any protection. .
“It is a sad indictment of the loyalty of some current governments that a handful of people with ties to drug companies have been allowed to become billionaires through state-funded efforts to end the pandemic.”
Topping the list of new billionaires who have benefited from the success of COVID vaccines are the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech, each with wealth in excess of $ 4 billion or more.
The list also includes two of Moderna’s founding investors and the chairman of the company, as well as the CEO of a company that has entered into a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine.
This despite the fact that the vast majority of funding for the Moderna vaccine was paid for by taxpayers. The last three billionaires in new vaccines are all co-founders of Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics.
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: âAs companies making huge profits from COVID vaccines refuse 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 change. it could make the vaccines we have ineffective and put everyone at risk again.
“The pandemic has had a terrible human cost, so it is obscene that the profits keep coming before saving lives.”
Brendan Montague is editor-in-chief of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from the People’s Vaccine Alliance.