WASHINGTON, November 9, 2020 – Reacting to reports that early phase 3 trials of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine have been 90% successful, Heidi Chow, pharmaceuticals campaigner at Global Justice Now said: 

“It’s positive news that Pfizer may have found an effective Covid-19 vaccine, but right now it will only be for the few. We need governments to step in and make it available for the many – including by suspending patent rights.  

“If we continue to leave everything to the market, it will artificially restrict the number of doses the world can produce. As it stands, Pfizer and BioNTech can only produce 50 million doses for 2020 and 1.3bn for 2021 – this is a two-dose vaccine, that means only 25 million can receive it this year and just 650 million people next year.  
“This is nowhere near enough to meet global demand, especially when most of these doses have already been hoarded by rich countries through advanced purchase deals leaving nothing for lower income countries. We are heading towards artificially created scarcity for this vaccine which is completely unacceptable in a global pandemic.  

“Pfizer and BioNTech need to share this vaccine with the world, not hoard it for profit. That should mean putting it into the WHO’s global pool so that the technological know-how and patent rights are shared to enable multiple manufacturers to produce it as fast as possible. (1) Since they won’t, the World Trade Organisation needs to act to suspend patents on all Covid-19 medicines, as South Africa and India have proposed. (2) This is a race against time and we cannot allow the pursuit of profit to triumph over human need.”

Unlike their competitors Astra-Zeneca, Johnson and Johnson and GSK, the companies have made no pledges not to profit from this vaccine during the pandemic, despite BioNTech receiving public funding from the German government and the EU.(3) 

1. WHO COVID-19 technology access pool, https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/global-research-on-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov/covid-19-technology-access-pool

2. Pfizer’s CEO called the WHO’s efforts ‘nonsense’ in May, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/patent-pool-potential-covid-19-products-nonsense-pharma-leaders/

South Africa and India have proposed the WTO suspends all patents until the pandemic is brought under control, https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/india-south-africa-ask-wto-to-waive-off-patents-intellectual-property-protection-for-faster-covid-19-care-access/story/417668.html

3. Public money received on this vaccine:  

BioNTech to Receive up to €375M in Funding from German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to Support COVID-19 Vaccine Program BNT162, https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/09/15/2093535/0/en/BioNTech-to-Receive-up-to-375M-in-Funding-from-German-Federal-Ministry-of-Education-and-Research-to-Support-COVID-19-Vaccine-Program-BNT162.html  

European Investment Bank to provide BioNTech with up to €100 million in debt financing for COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_20_1034

Global Justice Now is a democratic social justice organisation working as part of a global movement to challenge the powerful and create a more just and equal world. We mobilise people in the UK for change, and act in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south. www.globaljustice.org.uk