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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

COVID-19 vaccines create nine new billionaires

New vaccines create new billionaires with combined wealth more than cost of inoculation for world’s poorest countries

MANILA – Excessive profits pharmaceutical corporations gained led to the inclusion of nine people among the world’s billionaires as COVID-19 vaccines continue to be manufactured for worldwide consumption.

In a statement from OXFAM Philippines, the information came from The People’s Vaccine Alliance which released the data today ahead of the G20 leaders Global Health Summit.

Key members of the G20 who will begin meeting tomorrow, including the UK and Germany, are reportedly blocking moves to boost supply by ending companies’ monopoly control of vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to affect lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a small part of the population has been inoculated.

The nine new billionaires who have extensive portfolios in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations, have seen their combined wealth increase by US$32.2 billion, enough to fully immunize everyone in India.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, looked into Forbes Rich List data to underscore the massive wealth generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were mostly public funded.

“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,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager.

She added the billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. The vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity.

“We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world,” Miss Marriott added.

Earlier this month, the US supported proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization to temporarily break the monopolies and life the patents on COVID-19 vaccines. This move drew support from over 100 developing countries, and in recent days countries like Spain declared their support, as did Pope Francis and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.

“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 the people,” said Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now.

Meanwhile, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said companies are making massive profits from COVID-19 vaccines, they 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,” the UNAIDS official added.

Oxfam said the UK and Germany are blocking the proposal, “putting the interest of pharmaceutical companies over what’s best for the world.” It was learned Italy, who will host the G20 Global Health Summit tomorrow, are continuing to “sit on the fence” on the issue just like Canada and France.

Included in the list of new billionaires who reaped on the success of COVID-19 vaccines are the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech, each with a wealth of over US$4 billion or more. The list also includes two of Moderna’s founding investors and the company’s chair and the CEO of a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine. This is despite the fact the vast majority of funding for the Moderna vaccine was paid for by taxpayers. The final three new vaccine billionaires are all co-founders of the Chine vaccine company CanSino Biologics. (Melo M. Acuña)

President Rodrigo Duterte holding a vial of COVID-19 vaccine in one of his appearances to welcome imported vaccines now rolled-out to various parts of the country. (Screen grab by Melo M. Acuna)

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