Cashing in on the pandemic... Covid vaccine monopoly creates nine new billionaires

Cashing in on the pandemic... Covid vaccine monopoly creates nine new billionaires

20 May 2021

There’s no doubt about it – the pandemic has been a massive windfall for Big Pharma’s top executives.

At least nine people have become billionaires since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic due to the huge profits generated by pharmaceutical companies which have monopolies on vaccine production, the People’s Vaccine Alliance has revealed.

These nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate people in low-income countries 1.3 times.

Despite being home to 10 percent of the world’s population, these countries have received just 0.2 per cent of the global supply of vaccines because of the massive shortfall in available doses.

In addition, eight existing billionaires, who have extensive portfolios in the Covid-19 vaccine pharma corporations, have seen their combined wealth increase by $32.2 billion, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.

A nurse in a PPE kit attends to patients recovering from coronavirus at the Commonwealth Games facility for Covid patients in New Delhi, India, a country devastated by Covid-19. Photo: RoannaRahman/Oxfam

The People’s Vaccine Alliance made the announcement ahead of a G20 leaders Global Health Summit which takes place tomorrow, 21 May.

Key members of the G20, including the UK and Germany, are blocking moves to boost supply by ending monopoly control of vaccine production. They are even doing so as Covid-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.

Campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance – whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, analysed Forbes Rich List data to highlight the massive wealth being generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were largely public funded.

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

These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. These 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.

Earlier this month, the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organisation to temporarily break up these monopolies and lift the patents on Covid-19 vaccines. This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and in recent days countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has the Pope and over 100 world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Despite this, other rich nations, including the UK and Germany, are still blocking the proposal, putting the interest of pharmaceutical companies over what’s best for the world. Italy, which is hosting tomorrow’s G20 Global Health Summit, is continuing to sit on the fence on the issue, as are Canada and France.

The nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3bn)
  2. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4bn)
  3. Timothy Springer, immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
  4. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9bn)
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8bn)
  6. Robert Langer, scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6bn)
  7. Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3bn)
  8. Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2bn)
  9. Mao Huinhua, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1bn)
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