- 9 new billionaires added to the list from COVID-19 vaccines
- 8 existing billionaires saw seen their combined wealth increase by $ 32.2 billion because of the vaccine rollout
The profits made from the COVID-19 vaccines have helped at least 9 people to join the elite list of billionaires, said a campaign group on Thursday, calling for the end to the “monopoly control” of pharmaceutical corporations on the vaccine technology.
In a statement, the People’s Vaccine Alliance said, “Between them, the nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion (15.8 billion euros), enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times”.
The alliance which is a network of organisations and activists who are campaigning for the end of the property rights and patents for inoculations, said its figures were based on the Forbes Rich List data.
Anna Marriott from charity Oxfam said, “These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines,” Oxfam is part of the alliance.
Apart from the people becoming mega-rich, 8 existing billionaires have also seen their combined wealth increase by $ 32.2 billion all because of the vaccine rollout, the alliance said.
Coming on top of the list of new vaccine billionaires were the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Moderna Stephane Bancel, and his BioNTech counterpart Ugur Sahin.
Three other neobillionaires are the co-founders of a Chinese vaccine company named CanSino Biologics.
The research comes ahead of the G20 Global Health Summit which will take place on Friday, which has been a lightning rod for growing calls to temporarily remove the Intellectual Property (IP) protections over the COVID-19 vaccines.
Supporters have said that doing so would boost the production of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries which in turn address the dramatic inequity in access.
Apart from the United States of America, one of the greatest influential figures like Pope Francis has backed the idea of a global waiver on patent protections.
Son Tuesday, at a Paris summit seeking to boost financing in Africa amid the pandemic, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, called for the removal of “all these constraints in terms of intellectual property which blocks the production of certain types of vaccines”.
On Wednesday, the European Commission said it would be a “constructive” voice in World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks on the issue.
Heidi Chow, the Senior Policy and Campaign Manager at Global Justice Now said, “The highly effective vaccines we have are thanks to massive amounts of taxpayers’ money so it can’t be fair that private individuals are cashing in while hundreds of millions face second and third waves completely unprotected”.
Global Justice Now helped analyse the billionaire data.
She added, “As thousands of people die each day in India, it is utterly repugnant… to put the interests of the billionaire owners of Big Pharma ahead of the desperate needs of millions”.
The manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines, on the other hand, have stressed that the patent protection is not the limiting factor in ramping up vaccine production.
They have claimed that a wide range of issues – from the set up of the manufacturing sites to sourcing of the raw materials to the availability of qualified personnel – are holding up the manufacturing process.