Elizabeth Warren, a progressive Democratic senator from Massachusetts, called on Pfizer and Moderna to boost global access to Covid-19 vaccines after they announced record sales last week.
The move coincides with a push by NGOs, stakeholder advocacy groups and the World Health Organization to address the huge disparity in access to vaccines between rich and poor countries.
Pfizer and Moderna have already made billions [of dollars] in profits by selling their Covid-19 vaccines,” Warren told the Financial Times. “These companies must do more to address unacceptable disparities in global access to Covid-19 vaccines, including by massively expanding manufacturing Vaccines all over the world.
US companies currently expect combined sales of $54 billion this year, well above the initial estimate of $33 billion in February when they began bringing Covid-19 to the public. Airfinity, a health data analytics group, expects to generate $93.2 billion in vaccine sales in 2022.
The companies did not respond to a request for comment on Warren’s statement.
With Pfizer’s Covid vaccine on track to become the world’s best-selling pharmaceutical product in one year, pressure is mounting on companies to license their technology to generic drug producers in low-income countries.
Pfizer, its German partner BioNTech and Moderna, has so far resisted calls to share its technology with other companies, which critics claim has led to vaccine shortages in Africa, where only 7 percent of people are fully vaccinated.
Instead, vaccine makers have focused on boosting their production, selling the vaccine at low prices to middle- and low-income countries, and announcing plans to build facilities in Africa.
Repealing patent protection for Covid vaccines would discourage companies from taking risks and create more supply problems by causing a scramble for raw materials, said Albert Burla, chief executive of Pfizer.
One U.S. Senator, Angus King, an independent from Maine, wrote to Pfizer and Moderna urging them to follow Merck’s example and license their technology to generic drug manufacturers and the United Nations-backed Drug Patent Pool, an organization formed to advance access to life. Providing medicines to low and middle income countries.
Merck last month signed a royalty-free deal last month with MPP to boost access to antiviral birth control pills to treat Covid-19 in low-income countries.
“While I understand your preference for in-house production, it appears that there are generic drug companies that have the technical ability to meet your production standards requirements and significantly increase global vaccine availability,” King wrote in the letter.
Last week, Oxfam joined the Center for Interfaith Communication on Corporate Responsibility, or ICCR, and investor groups Mercy Investments and Trinity Health to present shareholder decisions calling on Pfizer and Moderna to consider transferring their skills and technology.
The huge profits generated by Covid vaccines, which have benefited from public investment, could increase the focus on pricing, especially if booster vaccines become an annual event, according to some health experts.
The debate is taking place against the background of a dispute between the US National Institutes of Health, a federal public health agency, and Moderna over the company’s decision to exclude three NIH scientists from joint ownership of a central vaccine patent.
Frances Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that Moderna made a “fatal mistake” in not providing co-innovation credit to people who played a key role in developing a vaccine that the company was now “reasonably making.” money from. ”
Pfizer and Moderna have not published most vaccine contracts with governments, but deals agreed with the European Union in the summer showed that Pfizer was charging €19.50 a dose and Moderna was charging $25.50 a dose, according to documents seen by the Financial Times.
In March, a senior Pfizer executive suggested that the company might raise vaccine prices when “normal market conditions kick in” when the pandemic is declared over.
“No other universal vaccine has been so profitable so quickly, and that is surprising and alarming,” said Dr. Ezekiel Emmanuel, a bioethicist and vice president of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania. “I think the price should go down.”
But he said it was important to recognize the enormous benefits of vaccines in terms of preventing deaths, hospitalizations and enabling the economy to reopen. “When you look at the economic losses they have prevented, it is hard to say that they do not deserve a reward,” Emmanuel said.
Additional reporting by Kieran Stacy in Washington
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