scorecardVaccine makers are making over $1,000 per second and furiously holding on to their monopolies
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Vaccine makers are making over $1,000 per second and furiously holding on to their monopolies

Vaccine makers are making over $1,000 per second and furiously holding on to their monopolies
Business3 min read
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  • The COVID-19 pandemic created over 40 new billionaires in the pharmaceutical sector in the last two years.
  • Pharma companies have been stashing away their profits to avoid paying taxes, according to a new Oxfam report.
  • Researchers have identified over 100 factories across the world which are capable of producing lifesaving mRNA vaccines, which can save around 1.5 million lives.
A monopoly on vaccines, tests, treatments, personal protective equipment kits (PPE) and everything that was extensively used during the pandemic has created 40 new pharma billionaires.

Vaccine-producing giants like Pfizer and Moderna are making over $1,000 per second from vaccines alone, according to an Oxfam report. And, they priced these life-saving vaccines aggressively at around 24 times the cost of producing them.

The COVID-19 pandemic took around 20 million lives worldwide. Over half of these deaths have been in low and lower-middle-income countries, with the vaccination rates in these countries being as low as 13%.

The COVID-19 pandemic created 40 new pharma billionaires

The COVID-19 pandemic helped create 40 new pharma billionaires. Four of those 40 come from US-based biotech major Moderna, which made a pre-tax margin of 70% on its vaccines.

“It (Moderna) has been immensely successful at converting public funding into private wealth, turning $10 billion in government funding from the US (including vaccine pre-orders) into around $12 billion in vaccine profits to date,” the report said.

The report also criticized Moderna’s refusal to engage with a South African vaccine maker trying to create an mRNA vaccine based on its code while choosing to maximize its profits.

“Moderna’s cooperation could reduce the time to approval for this vaccine by at least one year, helping to save lives, reduce the risk of variants, and reduce the pandemic’s economic toll. It is also among the pharmaceutical companies accused of stashing away profits in tax havens to avoid paying fair taxes,” Oxfam said.

Dirty tactics, lobbying, stashing profits apart from vaccine profits

Drug major Pfizer too used dirty tactics to boost profits, including funding misinformation about the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine – also known as Covishield in India. It also insisted on clauses in contracts that can be used to silence critics, apart from demanding state assets as collateral, and controlling delivery dates.

Removing monopolies can save 1.5 million lives, says Oxfam report

Researchers have identified over 100 factories that could produce lifesaving mRNA vaccines around the world, and over 100 countries are calling for intellectual property (IP) rules that protect the profits of pharmaceutical corporations to be lifted to improve access to these medical tools.

“Removing their monopoly and their ability to dictate market prices would inevitably see vaccine prices plummet and the billions of dollars in guaranteed revenue eroded. No wonder then that more than 100 drug lobbyists were dispatched to Washington and €36m was spent in Brussels to fight against the proposed waiver,” the report said.

The Oxfam report further suggested that the only way to tackle this monopoly problem is to put a ‘wealth tax’ on millionaires. “An annual wealth tax on millionaires starting at just 2 percent, and 5 percent on billionaires, could generate $2.52 trillion a year,” said the report.

1 billionaire every 30 hours, 1 million extreme poor every 33 hours

Billionaire wealth rose exponentially in the last two years and created 573 new billionaires — one in every 30 hours. In a stark contrast, one million people crashed into extreme poverty every 33 hours, the report added.

“The extremely rich and powerful are profiting from pain and suffering. This rising wealth and rising poverty are two sides of the same coin, proof that our economic system is functioning exactly how the rich and powerful designed it to do,” said Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International.