Pfizer should have helped low-income countries better distribute COVID-19 vaccines, CEO said

Pfizer should have helped low-income countries better distribute COVID-19 vaccines, CEO said
Pfizer CEO Albert BourlaAP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
  • Pfizer could have helped low-income countries better distribute COVID-19 vaccines, the CEO said.
  • CEO Albert Bourla said he should have helped improve vaccine-distribution infrastructure.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla acknowledged the pharmaceutical giant could have worked better to ensure low-income countries got enough COVID-19 vaccines.

Bourla said low-income countries have asked Pfizer to stop sending additional doses because they "cannot process them," or the countries lack infrastructure to distribute many shots at once.

In retrospect, Bourla said he would have worked with governments and nonprofits in low-income countries well in advance to ensure they had the infrastructure to distribute doses.

"We are using drones to drop vaccine supplies in remote areas," Bourla said during the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit on Tuesday. "We should have done it better, many other organizations should have done it better."

Though more than half of the world's population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, just 6.3% of people in low-income countries have received a shot, according to Our World in Data, a research project from Oxford University.


As poor nations lack vaccines, some rich countries are scrambling to get rid of their surplus. This summer, Israel was on the cusp of throwing away hundreds of thousands of doses set to expire before donating them to South Korea.

The World Health Organization is asking wealthier nations to prioritize sending vaccines to other nations instead of bolstering booster shot campaigns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended all US adults get a COVID-19 booster once eligible.

Bourla touted Pfizer's decision to sell vaccines at a higher price to rich countries and at low or no cost to less wealthy ones. The company, he added, ramped up manufacturing to ensure they could produce vaccines quicker than they had predicted.

Bourla said vaccinating the global population will inhibit the virus from mutating into variants, and help society return to a relatively normal life.

"Once we get people vaccinated, once we get the politics out of the equation...we can live normal lives," he told the WSJ's Jamie Heller.


Pfizer, along with other major pharmaceutical companies, has opposed a ruling that would remove protections on the company's intellectual property of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Former world leaders, including 100 Nobel laureates, penned a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to suspend vaccine patents. The move would enable manufacturers in poorer nations to make Pfizer or Moderna's vaccine without fear of reprisal.