LONDON, May 25, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – Topping the list of new billionaires on Forbes’ list are the CEOs of COVID vaccine makers Moderna and BioNTech, the partner of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Moderna’s executives Stéphane Bancel and BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin each have wealth of at least $4 billion. They join two of Moderna’s billionaire founding investors and the company’s chair, as well as the CEO of a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine, according to an analysis by the People's Vaccine Alliance, a group that includes Oxfam, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now, and Amnesty International.
Three other new vaccine billionaires are co-founders of the Chinese vaccine company CanSino Biologics, bringing the total to nine new coronavirus vaccine billionaires to join eight older COVID-19 vaccine billionaires.
‘Human face’ of ‘monopoly’ profits
“This is despite the fact the vast majority of funding for the Moderna vaccine was paid for by taxpayers,” said the activists’ report, which added that vaccine pharmaceutical corporations now have “monopoly control… over the supply and price of vaccines, pushing up their profits while making it harder for poor countries… to secure the stocks they need.”
The wealth of the corporate CEOs is in stark contrast to the inequitable distribution of their vaccine, the activists’ report said. If the companies were interested in their vaccines saving lives, the nine new billionaires’ combined $19.3 billion would be enough to vaccinate some 780 million people in low-income countries.
“These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines,” Anne Marriott, Oxfam's health policy manager, said in a statement.
“These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity,” she added.
“The vaccine titans are leveraging the pandemic to enrich themselves by impoverishing the planet,” Children’s Health Defense founder and attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said. “They don’t make money from good health but from fear, sickness[,] and death.”
‘Crazy good’ profits
The coronavirus has been a windfall for the pharmaceutical companies which received U.S. government “Operation Warp Speed” funds of $18 billion in last year’s race for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Frontrunners have seen soaring profits that are projected to reach stratospheric heights with aggressive government-sponsored marketing of their vaccines and the dawn of “variants” they say will require booster shots for the foreseeable future.
In February, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the 2021 Davos World Economic Forum that his company was already working on booster shots. Later he told shareholders that with variants he expected the company to “move from a pandemic into more of a normal type of vaccination business” and that he saw Pfizer’s “key advantage” is its “trust with the people.”
Pfizer reported a “crazy good” first quarter earlier this month, saying it now expects to haul in $26 billion in sales for its COVID-19 vaccine this year, up from its earlier projection of about $15 billion.
CEO Bourla was riding high enough to give himself a 17% raise on 2019’s salary – taking home $21 million, in salary, bonuses, and stock in 2020.
This was less than the $29.6 million Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky took home in 2020, up $4.2 million from 2019 because of the promise of COVID-19 vaccine profits, however.
Moderna's stock has surged more than 700% since February 2020, while BioNTech has multiplied 600% and CanSino Biologics’s share price is up about 440%.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s first-on-the-scene COVID vaccine has been plagued by reports of blood clot side-effects. Nonetheless, the company’s CEO Pascal Soriot saw his pay package sweetened this month with a hike in his maximum long-term equity incentive awards to 650% (from 550%) of his $1.9 million base salary in 2021. This was despite four investing advisory groups objecting to the deal.
Experimental and liability-free
Every coronavirus vaccine rolled out is still in clinical trials as they have been granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) only and are not fully approved or licensed by the Food and Drug Administration.
EUA status is granted only when there are no other viable treatments available. That is why physicians including Lee Merritt of America’s Frontline Doctors have called the sudden vilification and suppression of long-standing and cheap medical therapies like anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin – which continue to be supported by research – a “crime against humanity.”
Vaccine manufacturers have total immunity from lawsuits if anything goes wrong with their products under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.
To date, in the United States alone, that means that the 68,795 people who visited a hospital emergency department or a doctor for side-effects following COVID-19 shots have no legal recourse against the pharmaceutical companies.
The adverse reactions of these 68,795 people were reported to the U.S. government’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
Even the 12,601 patients who were hospitalized for symptoms following vaccination and the families of the 4,063 people who died following vaccination have no legal recourse, either.
Vaccine company executives like Pfizer’s Bourla have received accolades for “saving the world” with their products, but saving their salaries and stocks has proved to be a top priority.
In June 2020, with the first wave of lockdowns still in swing, John Young, Pfizer’s chief business officer, addressed the question on every shareholder’s mind minutes into a fireside chat at a virtual BIO conference: If the company develops a vaccine against COVID-19, what will the return on investment be?
“[T]his is not the time to think about… a typical ROI,” Young replied. “Frankly, the world needs a safe and effective vaccine,” and Pfizer’s priority is to “play our part in bringing forward vaccines and treatments that the world needs right now.”
A few weeks later Pfizer bagged a $1.95 billion order from Operation Warp Speed to procure 100 million doses of its COVID vaccine that hadn’t yet made it to clinical trials.
And less than two weeks after that, Bourla said he disagreed with pharma critics who say COVID-19 vaccine developers should forgo profits on products they make to address the crisis.
“You need to be very fanatic and radical to say something like that right now,” he told Barron’s.
“Who is finding the solution? The private sector,” he added.
Leading vaccine manufacturers all helped themselves to generous pieces of the Operation Warp Speed pie, however. Moderna took $2.5 billion in U.S. taxpayer handouts in exchange for 100 million doses and had the National Institutes of Health conduct most of its clinical trials. Johnson & Johnson took $1 billion and Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline received $2.1 Billion in Operation Warp Speed funding.
The largesse was not limited to American companies. The British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca received $1.2 billion from America’s Operation Warp Speed, for example.
Neither was Operation Warp Speed the only taxpayer vaccine slush fund on the planet. Pfizer’s partner BioNTech drummed up another $445 million from German taxpayers, for example.
On top of the R&D handouts, the Biden administration’s aggressive marketing and the $1 billion tax-funded vaccine awareness campaign for TV and radio ads launched as part of the COVID stimulus package is undoubtedly helping bolster the pharmaceutical profits.
‘It is our vaccine’
Pfizer issued a statement last July stating that “no thought [is] being given to ‘ROI’ in our COVID-19 work” but that the corporation was driven by “finding medical solutions to this crisis.”
The People’s Vaccine Alliance is not the first to point out that Pfizer and other pharmaceutical monopolies have refused to waive intellectual property rights to their vaccines so that companies in poorer countries can manufacture the products.
In a recent interview with CNBC, Pfizer’s Bourla said, “I don’t think that the waving of the intellectual property rights will do anything to their ability to manufacture… but it is our vaccine.”
Bourla said sharing the information with poorer countries would create “disincentives” for the “whole biotech industry… what does that mean in the next pandemic?”
Bourla did not mention Pfizer’s nearly $2 billion tax-funded donation from Operation Warp Speed in November when he said his company refused U.S. government funds “to liberate our scientists [from] any bureaucracy that comes with having to give reports and agree how we are going to spend the money in parallel or together.”
Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president and the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, denied the Operation Warp Speed deal to the New York Times in November as well, saying, “We were never part of the Warp Speed,” and adding, “we have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.” A Pfizer spokesperson confirmed the nearly $2 billion Operation Warp Speed contract the next day, however.
Remarkably, no politicians have raised the suggestion that vaccine manufacturers rolling in COVID profits be required pay back the American people and the U.S. government that invested in their fortune from the billions they are reaping now.