The Future is Equal

Pfizer’s estimated price for the Covid-19 vaccine is too high


In response to Pfizer and BioNTech’s encouraging interim report about the effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccine, Niko Lusiani, Senior Advisor with Oxfam America, made the following statement:

‘Pfizer and BioNTech’s encouraging results bring us all hope that we can get out of our current pandemic nightmare, but that simply won’t happen unless the vaccine is available and affordable to everyone.

“Pfizer’s estimated price for the vaccine is too high and the company cannot produce enough. The vaccine will be 0% effective to the people who can’t access or afford it.

“Pfizer’s price in the US is the highest among the leading vaccine candidates, with some analysts suggesting a 60-80% profit margin. Neither Pfizer, nor its German partner BioNTech, has made a public commitment to sharing its COVID-19 vaccine knowledge, technology, intellectual property, data and know-how to boost supply, reduce price and enhance equity.

“Meanwhile, rich countries are hoarding more than half of the vaccines developed by the companies with the leading five vaccine candidates. The US, with only 4% of the world’s population, has already called dibs on almost 50% of the Pfizer’s total expected supply in 2021.

“To protect everyone no matter their wealth or nationality, Pfizer and BioNTech must commit to openly sharing their vaccine technology to enabling billions of doses to be made now at the lowest possible price. 

“In a global pandemic of this magnitude, we must pursue a new path—a people’s vaccine that prioritizes public health over private profits.  No one should have access to a life-saving vaccine only if they live in the right country or have enough money. Governments and corporations must work together to make all COVID-19 treatments and vaccines global public goods.”


Editor’s notes:

While Pfizer is not relying on government funding for research and development for its COVID-19 vaccine, its partner BioNTech—the owner of the intellectual property for BNT-162—received a $439 million (€375m) grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research to support scale-up of manufacturing and development process.

Pfizer and BioNTech have not yet committed to disclosing the terms and conditions of any contracts for development or procurement with public entities, nor to being transparent about the true cost of R&D and manufacturing of its vaccine candidate.

In the US, the companies have priced the vaccine at $19.50 per a dose, or approximately $40 per two-dose regimen, for its 100 million dose order.

If the deals with rich countries materialize, only 23 million doses (2% of total supply) would be available at present to Lower and Middle Income Countries (LMICs). Meanwhile, 36% (470 million doses) of Pfizer/BioNTech’s 1.3 billion dose capacity (36%) would be guaranteed for rich countries. If the US government and the EU both agree to exercise their 500 million and 100 million dose respective options, a full 1.07 billion of the 1.3 billion dose (82%) would be captured by a handful of rich countries, with the US (only 4% of the world’s population) by itself cornering 46% of total supply of this vaccine in 2021.

Pfizer’s CEO banked almost $18 billion last year, while stockholders received more than four billion dollars in dividends in the first two quarters. Since January, the company spent more than 6 million dollars lobbying the US Federal government.

Additional information is available in Oxfam’s “A Shot at Recovery” that looks at the commitments made by the leading COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Merck and Co., and Pfizer — on key areas of vaccine access and equity.