Pfizer won’t budge on intellectual-property rights for $36 billion

The pharma giant aims to fast track COVID-19 vaccine delivery to low- and middle-income countries.

With the WHO's director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lambasting the “shocking imbalance” in the distribution of vaccines, Pfizer and the WHO met in a closed-door meeting back in July to discuss ways of getting vaccines to low-income countries. Tedros labelled it intolerable that pharmaceutical manufacturers were striving for higher profit margins by supplying vaccines to high-income countries. Since then, progress has been made and Pfizer has recently begun increasing supplies of its vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. By end of 2021, the pharma expects to deliver 1.1 billion doses from the 3 billion that was produced. Though the company is expediting vaccine supply, they refuse to divulge the secret formula for the vaccine that’s expected to earn it $36 billion for the current financial year.

To ensure vaccine equality, numerous countries headed by South Africa and India have requested that the WHO relinquish intellectual-property (IP) rights for COVID-19 vaccines. However, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer have pushed back on the request. Albert Bourla, Chief Executive of Pfizer termed IP rights the “blood of the private sector.” With the Pfizer vaccine consisting of over 280 materials manufactured in 19 countries, licenses would have to be waived for manufacturers to produce the vaccine. Pfizer is the number one supplier for high-income countries. It stated, “The waiver proposal is based on the incorrect notion that vaccine access is limited due to current levels of manufacturing, the industry is already well on its way to produce enough vaccines for the entire world by the middle of next year.”