Topping that list are the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech, both of whom have amassed wealth in excess of $4 billion.
At least nine people have become billionaires since the global COVID-19 pandemic began thanks to the profits they made from the manufacture, sale and distribution of vaccines against the disease, says the Vaccine Alliance for the People, a group that advocates for equal access to these drugs.
This list is headed by the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech, Stéphane Bancel and Ugur Sahin, who have reportedly reaped wealth in excess of 4 billion dollars, according to Forbes magazine.
In addition, this group includes three Moderna investors, the president of a company contracted to manufacture and package its vaccine and the three co-founders of the Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino Biologics.
Eight other people linked to this sector who were already billionaires before the pandemic also increased their wealth significantly: members of the Chinese companies Chongqing Zhifei Biological and Sinopharm or the Indian firm Cadila Healthcare and shareholders of the German BioNTech.
The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate 1.3 times the entire population of low-income countries.
The Vaccine for the People Alliance underscores “the enormous wealth being generated for a handful of people by vaccines” because, despite the fact that these drugs were “largely publicly funded,” private companies with monopolies on their intellectual property are reaping the rewards.
“That situation is unfair and must change,” say these activists on the eve of the G20 global health summit, to be held this May 21. “The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate 1.3 times the entire population of low-income countries,” which “have only received 0.2% of the global vaccine supply due to the huge shortfall of available doses, despite being home to 10% of the world’s population.”
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, said, “It is obscene that profits continue to be more important than saving lives.”
For their part, vaccine manufacturers and influential supporters of intellectual property protection for medicines, such as Bill Gates of the United States, say that factors such as a shortage of adequate production capacity in developing countries and other logistical difficulties are holding back global progress in vaccination and believe that lifting patent protections will not solve that; in fact, it could slow the process even further.