Make a Murder: Pfizer’s Dominance in COVID Jab Market

Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant that dominates the COVID vaccine market in imperialist countries in North America, Europe and Japan, with bilateral deals for more than six billion doses, is also expected to become the main supplier of COVAX, the global vaccine program for the world’s poorest countries.

Its move from AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is cheaper and easier to deliver, comes as many host countries lack the cold storage facilities needed to keep the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine. Of the 600 million or more images shipped to nearly 150 countries, more than 220 million are from AstraZeneca and approximately 160 million from Pfizer / BioNTech. But according to Gavi, the vaccine alliance that manages COVAX, Pfizer is far ahead in terms of “allocated” jabs, with around 470 million doses delivered or ready to be delivered in the coming months, against 350 million from AstraZeneca.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (credit: WSWS media)

While AstraZeneca, whose vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford, agreed to sell its vaccine at cost during the pandemic, at less than $ 4 a dose, Pfizer sought to maximize profits, by selling to the highest bidder, usually around $ 20 a dose. A bioengineering expert told UK Channel 4 Dispatches program, Vaccine Wars: The Truth About Pfizer, that the vaccine costs only 76p per injection to manufacture, although this does not include distribution, marketing and other costs. With the UK government paying £ 22 a dose, this represents a mark-up of almost 3,000% on the manufacturing price.

Pfizer denied, saying its pre-tax percentage profit margin is in the “high 20s”, an unverifiable number, on expected revenue this year of $ 36 billion from 2.3 billion vaccines. Even by his own admission, the profits are at least $ 10 billion.

CEO Albert Bourla last month told investors the company expects to achieve $ 80 billion in revenue this year, a record for any pharmaceutical company, with the vaccine accounting for more than a third. This makes the vaccine one of the best-selling pharmaceuticals this year and possibly the biggest seller in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

As the Financial Time noted in The Inside Story of the Pfizer Vaccine: A Unique Windfall at One Time, “The vaccine transformed Pfizer’s political influence. Since the vaccine was approved late last year, his “decisions have helped shape the course of the pandemic.” It has the power to set prices and choose which country comes first in an opaque queue system, including for stimulus packages that rich countries are now striving to accelerate. “

The vaccine was not developed by Pfizer but by BioNTech, with funding of 375 million euros from the German government. Lacking the resources to manufacture and market the jab, BioNtech turned to Pfizer to manage business operations. As a former U.S. government official involved in the supply of vaccines to the Financial Time, the fact that the vaccine is now universally known as Pfizer is “the biggest marketing stunt in the history of US pharmaceuticals.”

While BioNTech would get half of the profits, Pfizer would control the marketing of the vaccine everywhere except Germany and Turkey, the home countries of BioNTech’s founders, and China where BioNTech had already signed an agreement with Fosun Pharma. Pfizer, unlike Moderna, has deliberately refused public funding to keep control of the vaccine and pricing policy. He initially sought to charge the US government an obscene dose of $ 100 per dose, or $ 200 per course, before finally settling for $ 19.50 per dose after Moderna settled for much less because he became evident that maintaining a higher price would damage its reputation.

Even that was four times the single dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson and five times the vaccine from AstraZeneca. Highlighting the business interests behind the collective immunity policy, Pfizer comforted its investors by assuring them that it would be able to raise the price when the virus became rampant, thus ensuring an indefinite stream of profit.

Pfizer has taken advantage of its position of strength, aggressively negotiating bilateral deals with wealthy countries that are shrouded in secrecy, even binding independent scientists with nondisclosure agreements and insisting that governments provide it with compensation from lawsuits. . Governments, including those of Lebanon and the Philippines, had to change their laws to secure contracts with Pfizer.

Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, told the Financial Time that Pfizer’s terms were “abusive at a time when, owing to the urgency [governments] no space to say no.

The company refused to release doses until it was sure countries had the necessary cold storage capacity. Its negotiations with South Africa have been particularly belligerent, even stipulating that public property should be set aside as collateral to cover any legal claim for compensation, a claim described as “tantamount to the surrender of national sovereignty” .

In the case of Britain, large parts of the contracts have been redacted. If there is a dispute, Pfizer cannot be sued but only in arbitration proceedings that will be kept secret in what is apparently the only such agreement with a high-income country. Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, along with the United States and major European countries, is blocking efforts by more than 130 countries to increase vaccine production and bring prices down by deviating from World Organization intellectual property rules. trade (WHO) on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments for the remainder of the pandemic.

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) paid £ 2.57 billion for 135 million Pfizer jabs – £ 18 per dose for the first 100 million and £ 22 per dose for the next 35 million – with a mark-up of £ 1.903 billion above cost of production. The nearly 75 percent profit margin could have funded a pay rise more than six times the £ 302million the government has allowed the NHS England to spend on increases for its some 300,000 nurses this year. After inflation, the £ 1,000 increase for nurses is actually a pay cut.

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, it’s not just Pfizer, but Moderna and BioNTech that are reaping astronomical rewards. The Alliance estimates that the three companies are pricing their vaccines up to $ 41 billion above the estimated cost of production while paying few taxes. He estimates Moderna made $ 4.3 billion in profit on revenues of over $ 6 billion in the second quarter of this year, an obscene profit margin of 69%. Moderna expects total vaccine sales to reach $ 20 billion in 2021. With no commercial products other than their COVID injections, their profits come solely from vaccines.

The Alliance says that in the first half of 2021, Moderna paid US taxes at 7% and Pfizer at 15%, well below the US tax rate of 21%, thanks to a system that allows companies making billions of dollars to pay a much lower amount. tax rate than working families.

Since the identification of the Omicron variant in November, key executives and shareholders of Big Pharma have seen their wealth skyrocket as their stock prices rose, with eight of the shareholders of Pfizer and Moderna increasing their wealth by a total massive $ 10.31 billion. This has prompted accusations from pharmaceutical industry executives “slaughtering a crisis they helped create” by refusing to give up their patent rights and share vaccine technology.

Last year, WHO set up Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) to facilitate the transfer of vaccine technology and know-how to accredited manufacturers, but Big Pharma boycotted the program, Bourla , the boss of Pfizer, dismissing it as “nonsense.” This, along with their practice of selling to the highest bidder and creating grotesque levels of vaccine inequality, was one of the factors enabling the conditions for the Omicron variant to emerge.

Now, they are ready to create another windfall of profits with the development of the new COVID pill. Pfizer is expected to dominate the $ 20 billion market next year as rich countries rush to limit supply, with poorer countries to wait for generics, not until 2023. The company is expected to make $ 17 billion in revenue. billion dollars of its experimental Paxlovid therapy in 2022, while Merck’s molnupiravir will bring in around $ 2.5 billion, as these new drugs replace existing and more expensive treatments for high-risk patients.

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