Saturday, May 15, 2021

Pfizer draws criticism as profits from Covid-19 jab sales soar

Pfizer is holding talks with 'basically all governments of the world' about providing booster shots through 2024.

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Pfizer sharply increased its 2021 profit projections on Tuesday, citing much higher Covid-19 vaccine sales which will provide a “durable” revenue stream in the wake of the pandemic.

With German partner BioNTech, the pharma giant is ramping up vaccine production and now estimates 2021 revenues of US$26 billion from the vaccine, up from the US$15 billion projected in February.

But the company has drawn criticism as governments face pressure to ensure vaccines are provided to poorer countries.

Pfizer is holding talks with “basically all governments of the world” about providing booster shots through 2024, chief executive Albert Bourla said on Tuesday.

Bourla expects “durable demand” for Covid-19 vaccines, similar to that of the annual flu jab.

“It is our hope that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will continue to have a global impact by helping to get the devastating pandemic under control and helping economies around the world not only open, but stay open,” Bourla said.

Pfizer has won praise for developing a game-changing vaccine in record time but critics are calling the profits troubling given the divide in vaccine availability between rich and poor countries.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month criticised a “shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines” and called for efforts to beef up WHO’s Covax programmes, which aims to ensure that poorer nations can access the shots.

India and South Africa are leading an effort in the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property and patent rules, at least temporarily, which would open the door to broader production of vaccines at a time when the virus is causing mass misery in India and other countries.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he had not made a decision on whether to support a vaccine waiver, but that the US is moving “as quickly as we can” to export doses.

Pfizer reported net income of US$4.9 billion, up 45% from the same period last year.

Revenues also jumped 45% to US$14.6 billion, including US$3.5 billion in Covid-19 vaccine sales.

As of May 3, Pfizer and BioNTech have shipped about 430 million doses of the vaccine to 91 countries around the world.

The company has agreed to provide up to 40 million doses for Covax.

However, the company on Tuesday pointed to a series of deals to expand offerings in richer countries, including the US, the EU, Canada and Israel.

Pfizer has defended its approach to vaccine pricing, saying it has moderated pricing through a “pandemic phase” that could last into 2022 at levels “to encourage broad access”.

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