Pharma failing the moral ethics of Covid vaccines

LEAD IN: Pharma companies are a business and have the right to make money but at what cost and how much is enough? The world’s makers of Covid-19 vaccines—saw over $10 billion in new wealth, with the Moderna’s CEO alone adding over $800 million to his fortune. Is this acceptable?

Just 8 top Pfizer and Moderna shareholders” added a combined $10.31 billion to their fortunes last week after stock prices soared in response to the emergence of Omicron. Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, personally became more than $824m richer the week after the announcement, with the value of his shares rising from $6,052,522,978 to $6,876,528,630. He sold off 10,000 shares for $319 each on 26 November, the day after the variant was announced, cashing out $3.19 million.

Pharma has fought the patent wavier of vaccines for a good reason; they are cash cows. Yet Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz and trade expert Lori Wallach argued in an op-ed last week that the pandemic cannot be defeated until the waiver is approved.

According to data from the People’s Vaccine Alliance Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna make $65k a minute in combined profits from their vaccines, based on profits reported in the three companies’ latest reports.

I guess I was raised differently because I, in good conscience, could not take home millions of dollars while emerging countries can’t afford the vaccine. Until more of the world’s population gets vaccinated, the virus will continue to mutate and threaten all of us.

There is no debate that today’s pharmaceutical companies have helped us lead longer and better lives, but they have made their shareholders and CEOs a lot of money in the process. But, when people declare bankruptcy to pay medical bills and insulin costs over $1000, something is very wrong.

The rationale that pharma needs the money for R&D has been debunked by several journalists who have studied the issue in depth. While many may believe they are helping patients, the reality is that CEOs and shareholders are getting wealthy with pharma stocks. When a new drug in development releases preliminary data, no mention is made of the patients who will lose; it’s always about the companies stock.

The Trump tax cuts ensured that the rich got richer and that the rest of us pretty much stayed where we are. I understand that decision-making is based on ROI but who is thinking of the people we serve and the real good we can do by making medications more affordable?

Right now, pharma is failing the moral question before it.