Pfizer has blood on its hands: 20 global health organisations demand end to the pharma giant’s pandemic profiteering

Campaigners to deliver wheelbarrows of money and giant cheque to Pfizer offices as AGM takes place, demanding the company put people over profits

As Pfizer’s executive leadership team and shareholders meet in New York to celebrate its record-breaking profits at its Annual General Meeting on Thursday 28th April, 20 organisations have signed an open letter demanding the company end its monopolies on COVID-19 vaccine and treatment technologies.

The letter states that whilst Pfizer almost doubled its annual revenue to $81.3bn in 2021, it has contributed to an over 15 billion dose gap in global supply needed for 2022.

This trend is continuing with treatments, they argue, with this year’s predicted supply of several key COVID-19 therapeutics, including Pfizer’s Paxlovid, having been already bought up almost entirely by high-income countries

Organisations also point out that there are over 100 sites outside of the Global North that could be producing mRNA vaccines, were Pfizer to share its technology and know-how. Meanwhile, just 15.2% of people in low-income countries have received a first vaccine dose.

On Thursday, campaigners from the People’s Vaccine Alliance in the UK will deliver this letter and present Pfizer offices at Walton Oaks, Surrey, with wheelbarrows of fake cash and a giant cheque to mark the company’s pandemic profiteering.

The campaigners, several of them from families bereaved by COVID-19 as a result of lack of vaccine access, are to deliver these ‘pandemic profits’ with bloodstained hands; highlighting their claim that Pfizer’s refusal to share its vaccine technology and know-how during the pandemic means it has blood on its hands.

Sakina Datoo, a patient leader with Just Treatment, who’s father died in Tanzania due to lack of access to a vaccine, said:

“I lost my father in Tanzania to COVID-19 because companies like Pfizer chose to prioritise selling to rich markets like the UK before considering providing for countries in Africa. It’s now extremely hard for people in most African countries to trust that big pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer will ever put our health needs first. 

We are demanding they share access to life-saving technology so that we can take control of our health, because frankly they do not seem bothered about whether we live or die.”

The letter follows the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that the world is about to make the same mistake with COVID treatments as it has with vaccines as it endorsed Paxlovid for patients at high-risk from COVID-19.

Tarun Gidwani, a member of the Global Justice Now Youth Network, who’s family members in India have to ration haemophilia drugs due to cost, said:

“I’m protesting at Pfizer today because it’s sickening that they’re celebrating record profits while refusing to share the technology with countries in the global south who could manufacture these life-saving medications. When over 80% of people in low-income countries still haven’t received a single jab and deaths are still mounting, this is unconscionable: Pfizer has blood on its hands.

This pandemic is not over, but we also need to look at the entire system that allows big pharma to profit off of human suffering. I have family members in India who have to ration their haemophilia drugs because of the extortionate prices pharma companies charge. As a result they have to suffer severe bleeds and substantial pain. This is completely avoidable. No one should have to go without medication due to financial cost.”

Tian Johnson, Head of the African Alliance and Community Co-Chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said:

This would have been an entirely different pandemic had Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers shared their technology from the get go. 

In my own country, our scientists have learnt how to use mRNA technology and painstakingly developed vaccine prototypes. Their work could have been sped up and many lives saved if these companies had just shared their technology. 

Instead, Pfizer and others are perfectly happy to play a leading role in perpetuating vaccine apartheid.”

Saoirse Fitzpatrick, Advocacy Manager at STOPAIDS said:

“Monopoly protections on vaccines and the refusal by pharma companies to share their know-how means the majority of  countries will not reach the WHO’s targets to vaccinate 70% of the world by June. 

Now we’re seeing the same patterns of inequity with COVID-19 treatments. High-income countries have brought up the majority of Pfizer’s Paxlovid supply and simultaneously many middle-income countries are being prevented from manufacturing or procuring cheaper, generic versions of the drug. It is deeply depressing that no lessons from the dire inequity witnessed in the global vaccine roll-out have been learned.”

In March 2022, the UN said that vaccine inequity was leading to tens of thousands of preventable deaths every week.