The Pandemic as an Opportunity (II)

Amnesty International criticizes western vaccine manufacturers for supplying mainly rich countries. BioNTech once again reports record profits, becoming a stimulator for Germany's economic growth.

BERLIN/MAINZ (Own report) - Amnesty International strongly criticizes western Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, particularly the German BioNTech company. According to the study, published by the human rights organization today, not only wealthy western states, which buy up the market to vaccinate children and hoard vaccines, are responsible for the fact that only 0.3% of the Covid-19 vaccine doses that have been administered globally have gone to low-income countries. Major vaccine manufactures are also to blame. They are refusing even, at least, a temporary waiver of their patents and disregard the dramatically needed supply to the international COVAX initiative - partially to generate huge profits. BioNTech, for example, has increased its profit to €3.92 billion in the second quarter of 2021 - with a total turnover of €7.36 billion. This could be a turning point for Germany's flagging pharmaceutical industry and a boost for German economic growth. At present, poorer countries are being primarily supplied by China.

Those Who Have, Shall Get

Amnesty International strongly criticizes the six major western Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax (all US-based), AstraZeneca (Great Britain) and BioNTech (Germany).[1] According to the human rights organization, of the 5.56 billion vaccine doses administered by mid-September, 71% have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3% of the doses have been given to low-income countries. This is not only due to the fact that wealthy countries are buying up huge quantities of vaccines on the market to vaccinate not only adults but increasingly, adolescents and children - sometimes explicitly contrary to medical advice - to administer booster shots and to hoard significant quantities of doses for the future. Doses of vaccines are being discarded in the wealthy countries, to a growing extent, because they have passed their expiration date. More than three million doses could spoil soon also in Germany, according to reports.[2] The claim that the rich world is donating to poor countries through the COVAX initiative has proven false: Of the two billion doses of vaccine COVAX had planned to deliver by the end of the year, only 243 million had been furnished by the beginning of September.

Vaccinate the Rich

This is compounded by the fact that the major vaccine manufacturers - with one partial exception - are implicitly, and at times, even explicitly, undermining a better distribution of vaccines to poorer countries, according to Amnesty International. They usually sell their vaccines at a huge profit, thus severely disadvantaging poorer countries. They still refuse to waiver patents and share technical know-how at least for the period of the pandemic, thereby preventing the expansion of production especially in poorer countries. One exception, according to Amnesty International, is AstraZeneca. That company, headquartered in Cambridge (Great Britain), has sold its doses of vaccines, according to its own admission, at its production price, and Amnesty reports that it has concluded license agreements with manufacturers in Brazil, China, India and Russia, for which the company, while also refusing any form of patent waiver, still "deserves credit." In fact, AstraZeneca has delivered nearly two-thirds of its doses of vaccine to countries with lower-medium or low incomes, while around 79 percent of the Johnson & Johnson, and 88 percent of the Moderna deliveries have been to the high-medium or high-income countries.

Billions in Profits

Amnesty International's criticism pertains particularly to BioNTech (in Mainz, Germany) and its US partner company, Pfizer (in New York). The human rights organization reports that, until now, 79.9 percent of their doses of vaccine have been delivered to high-income countries, another 18.0 percent, to countries of medium income, only two percent to countries with lower medium, and a dwindling 0.1 percent to low-income countries. Of all the COVID-19 vaccine producers, that is the most excessive preferential treatment of rich countries. In addition, Pfizer and BioNTech are selling their vaccines at such a high price, that they are raking in huge profits - even though enormous government down payments had covered their development costs and minimized their business risks. The German government had sponsored BioNTech with €375 million. BioNTech and Pfizer were additionally given purchase assurances by the United States and the EU for US $17.3 billion worth of vaccines. Their profits are enormous. For BioNTech alone, its sales increased from €2.05 billion in the first quarter of 2021, to €5.31 billion in the second, with its profits growing from €1.13 billion, to €2.79 billion. During the first semester of 2021 that company, headquartered in Mainz, had had sales worth €7.36 billion and a profit of €3.92 billion - almost entirely due to its vaccine sales.[3]

Growth Stimulator

For 2021, BioNTech is aiming for sales in the range of €16 billion, which would be around a third of the total pharmaceutical sales in 2020. Experts believe that this could give the flagging sector a boost. Recently, sales of Germany's pharmaceutical branch had dropped from €54 billion in 2018 to €47.2 billion in 2020, while global sales of that branch were rising. "The Corona pandemic and the success of (BioNTech) in Mainz, with its mRNA," now offers "the opportunity to also gain ground on its international and European competition for a base of operations and to increase its share of the creation of global pharmaceutical value," it was reported.[4] Investors already consider that with BioNTech, "an independent pharmaceutical company has finally emerged in Germany."[5] Besides, BioNTech's business success has an overall effect on Germany's economy. This year, the company "was able to contribute 0.5 percent to the GDP," explained the Düsseldorf-based Macroeconomic Policy Institute's (IMK) Director, Sebastian Dullien recently.[6] He "could not recall a case, wherein a single company has had such an impact on the German GDP," Dullien said.

Supplying Poorer Countries

While BioNTech is raking in profits, in order to become a broad-based pharmaceutical company, which has significance even beyond the Covid-19 vaccine production, poorer countries are being supplied vaccines primarily by China. According to the statistics of Bridge Consulting, located in Beijing, the People’s Republic of China has, in the meantime, delivered 831 million doses of vaccine abroad, 66 million of those doses were donated.[7] Just over 61 million doses went to Africa - which is more than a third of the total 177 million doses that have so far reached that continent; 12.8 million doses were donated by Beijing. Partial production of the Sinopharm vaccine has begun In Morocco. Chinese companies have so far supplied more than 236 million doses to Latin America, including 96 million to Brazil. More than 480 million doses have been delivered to the Asia-Pacific region - 191 million to Indonesia, 34 million to the Philippines, 48 million to Pakistan, about 30 million to Bangladesh. Indonesia and Brazil are engaged in partial production of Chinese vaccines. Chinese vaccines have also been delivered to some Eastern and Southeastern European countries, such as Hungary (4.5 million doses), Serbia (4.2 million doses) and Turkey (31.4 million doses). The shipments abroad by Chinese vaccine producers have already reached the volume of at least 30 million doses of vaccines per week.


For more information on this subject see: The Pandemic Profiteers.


[1] Amnesty International: A Double Dose of Inequality. Pharma Companies and the Covid-19 Vaccine Crisis. London, September 2021.

[2] Christina Berlinghof: Warum landen weltweit so viele Corona-Impfstoffdosen im Müll? 05.09.2021.

[3] BioNTech Announces Second Quarter 2021 Financial Results and Corporate Update. 09.08.2021. See also The Pandemic as an Opportunity

[4] Siegfried Hofmann: Biontech wird zum Booster für den Pharmastandort Deutschland. 08.09.2021.

[5] Eva Müller, Martin Noé: "Mit Biontech entsteht wieder ein eigenständiger Pharmakonzern in Deutschland". 16.09.2021.

[6] Impfstoff kurbelt Wirtschaft an: Biontech sorgt allein für ein halbes Prozent Wachstum in Deutschland. 10.08.2021.

[7] China Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker. Updated as of September 13, 2021.