The Pandemic Profiteers

International NGO criticizes mRNA vaccine producers' excessive profits, including BioNTech's. Poorer countries are mainly being supplied by China. Berlin plans to stockpile vaccine doses - as a "precautionary measure."

BERLIN/MAINZ (Own report) - A recent analysis by The People's Vaccine Alliance, an international NGO, has revealed the dimensions of profits major mRNA vaccine producers - including BioNTech (Mainz) - are reaping in from the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis, recently published under the title "The Great Vaccine Robbery," estimates the sales price of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine at between 6 and 24 times its production costs. According to The People's Vaccine Alliance, BioNTech/Pfizer's revenue from the sales of their vaccine is around $24 billion more than their production costs. The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of around 70 international NGOs, including Oxfam and Amnesty International. Berlin protects the profits of these vaccine manufacturers by continuing to block temporary vaccine patent waivers. With already 570 million doses, China is the main vaccine supplier for the emerging and developing countries. Germany, on the other hand, is now turning toward booster shots. The government intends to stockpile tens of millions of doses of vaccine - as a "precautionary measure."

Excessive Profits

The People's Vaccine Alliance has recently published a joint analysis by Public Citizen, an NGO in the USA, and by experts from Imperial College London, based on a cost vs. price comparison of mRNA vaccines. According to this analysis one dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine could be produced for $1.18 and a dose of the Moderna vaccine for $2.85.[1] According to reported pricing for countries where data is available, the price of Moderna is between 4 and 13 times, while the price of BioNTech/Pfizer is even between 6 and 24 times the production price, as estimated by The People's Vaccine Alliance. The lowest known price for a dose of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was paid by the African Union (AU). With $6.75 per dose, it is 6 times the estimated production costs. With $28 per dose, Israel paid the highest price. Moderna reportedly charged Columbia $30 per dose, double the price paid by the US government. South Africa was forced to reject an offer by Moderna as prohibitive - according to reports, the company was charging $42 per dose.

Corona Billionaires

The People's Vaccine Alliance has calculated examples of various payments exceeding estimated production costs that vaccine producers can now tabulate as profits. South Africa, for example, may have overpaid as much as $177 million - enough, according to the People's Vaccine Alliance, to vaccinate the entire populations of South Africa, Namibia and Zambia at production costs. The AU has thus overpaid $279 million, Columbia $275 million. According to the analysis, BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna pocketed a combined $41 billion above the estimated costs of production - solely BioNTech/Pfizer, $24 billion. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, BioNTech could reap a net profit of €1.13 billion on €2.05 billion in sales.[2] Comparable Pfizer data suggest a significant increase in the coming quarters. Until May, COVID vaccines had created nine new billionaires, including BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin, four Moderna managers and investors, and three managers from China's CanSino vaccine producer.[3]

The Generosity of the EU

Vaccine producers owe extra profits to the EU, which, according to the People's Vaccine Alliance, had "negotiated prices particularly badly." As far as is known, for its first 600 million BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine doses, Brussels had paid €15.50 per dose. The price for the next 900 million vaccine doses jumped to €19.50/dose, notes The People's Vaccine Alliance. If the markup on production costs of the 460 million doses of Moderna vaccine were added, it would mean that the Union has expended around €31 billion above and beyond the mere price of production - 19 percent of the EU's entire 2021 budget. According to reports, the pharmaceutical companies have even succeeded in raising the price for the EU's most recent order of an additional 2.1 billion vaccine doses. Initially it was said that BioNTech/Pfizer would be paid €15.50 per vaccine dose, now it has been raised to €19.90; Moderna, in turn has hiked its price from €19 to €21.50 per dose.[4] This will drive up company profits even further - at the expense of the EU's taxpayers.

Germany's Blockade

The German government and the EU are responsible for the fact that the German and US mRNA producers may continue to rake in billions in profits off the Covid-19 pandemic. In the relevant bodies of the WTO last week, they again blocked demands to, at least, temporarily suspend Covid-19 vaccine patents.[5] India and South Africa had initially raised this demand already in October 2020. Had it been accepted then, a huge amount of vaccines could have been produced in poorer countries and their distribution ensured. Through their blockade policy, Berlin and the Union are essentially responsible for the fact that until now, only 1.1 percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine. BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, the pharmaceutical companies profiting most from the German-EU blockade of this urgent waiver of patents, are also the companies that, according to the People's Vaccine Alliance, are supplying the least vaccines to poorer countries. BioNTech/Pfizer has provided only eight percent and Moderna only seven percent of their its global production to lower and medium income countries.[6]

Vaccines for Poorer Countries

The People's Republic of China has long stood out as the most important supplier, by far, of vaccines to emerging and developing countries. The United States has agreed to deliver 500 million doses of vaccines to poorer countries - by the middle of next year. Last week, Great Britain sent the first nine million doses of vaccine to poorer countries. According to data published by the consulting firm Bridge Beijing, the People's Republic has delivered, in the meantime, 570 million doses of vaccine to middle- and lower income nations. Numerous countries in Africa have received 45.4 million of these doses, which, according to data from the WHO, is more than half of the 83.3 million doses that the continent has so far received. Germany, on the other hand, will soon begin to issue booster shots to those, who have been fully vaccinated, and begin to expand vaccination to children and youth. The German government also plans to stockpile large quantities of vaccines - according to reports, one dose per inhabitant, or 80 million doses, "as a precautionary measure," it is said.[7] At the moment, poorer nations can hope to be able to acquire some of the doses of vaccines that, due to vaccination hesitancy in Germany, will remain unused and approach their date of expiration. If these can be shipped abroad in time, then the poorer countries will also still get something from Germany.


[1] Vgl. hier und im Folgenden: Anna Marriott, Alex Maitland: The Great Vaccine Robbery. The People's Vaccine Alliance Policy Brief. 29 July 2021.

[2] See also The Pandemic as an Opportunity.

[3] COVID vaccines create 9 new billionaires with combined wealth greater than cost of vaccinating world's poorest countries. 20.05.2021.

[4] Elena Sánchez Nicolás: Report: Pfizer and Moderna raise vaccine prices for EU. 02.08.2021.

[5] See also Die Welt impfen (III).

[6] Anna Marriott, Alex Maitland: The Great Vaccine Robbery. The People's Vaccine Alliance Policy Brief. 29 July 2021.

[7] Kim Björn Becker, Christian Geinitz: Schrei vor Glück oder schick's zurück. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 31.07.2021.