Moderna, Pfizer, BioNTech reaping ‘astronomical and unconscionable’ profits

According to ActionAid International — a global federation working for a world free of poverty and injustice — Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech are reaping “astronomical and unconscionable profits” due to their monopolies of mRNA COVID vaccines.

Moderna and BioNTech are reporting 69% profit margins, with Moderna and Pfizer paying little in taxes, the People’s Vaccine Alliance said Sept. 15.

Thanks to patent monopolies for COVID vaccines — development of which was supported by $100 billion in public funding from taxpayers in the U.S., Germany and other countries — the three corporations earned more than $26 billion in revenue in the first half of the year, at least two-thirds of it as pure profit for Moderna and BioNTech.

The Alliance also estimated the three corporations are over-charging, pricing their vaccines by as much as $41 billion above the estimated cost of production.

“Big Pharma’s business model — receive billions in public investments, charge exorbitant prices for life-saving medicines, pay little tax — is gold dust for wealthy investors and corporate executives but devastating for global public health,” said Robbie Silverman, private sector engagement manager for Oxfam.

Silverman said pharmaceutical companies are prioritizing their own profits by enforcing their monopolies and selling their  vaccines to the highest bidder. “Enough is enough — we must start putting people before profits,” Silverman said.

According to an analysis by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, based on work by MRNA scientists at Imperial college, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have charged up to 24 times the potential cost of production for their vaccines.

Analysis of production techniques for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which were developed only thanks to $8.3 billion of public funding, suggest these same vaccines could be made for as little as $1.20 a dose.

Despite benefiting from a multi-billion-dollar public investment in the development of their vaccines, pharma giants have not paid their fair share of taxes, ActionAid International reported.

In the first half of 2021, Moderna paid a 7% U.S. tax rate and Pfizer paid a 15% tax rate — well below the statutory rate of 21%.

BioNTech, the German startup that produced the recipe for Pfizer’s vaccine, paid a significantly higher tax rate of 31% in Germany while reaping a 77% profit margin.

Moderna expects total vaccine sales of $20 billion in 2021. So far this year, Moderna has paid only $322 million in taxes, despite earning billions in profit.

Pfizer’s vaccine now accounts for more than a third of the company’s overall revenue base. Pfizer sold more than $11 billion in vaccines in the first half of this year, and is now projecting $33.5 billion in total vaccine sales for 2021 — making the vaccine one of the top selling pharma products this year and potentially in the history of the pharmaceutical industry.

Pfizer has stated its vaccine profit margins are less than 30%, but because the company doesn’t disclose it’s expenses, it was not possible to independently verify its profit margins, ActionAid International reported.

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