Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is making misleading statements about its commitment to vaccine fairness as it continues to supply most of its life-saving Covid-19 doses to wealthy countries, Amnesty International said today.
In a new briefing, the organization found that Pfizer, which recently said it expects $36 billion in vaccine sales this year alone, has distorted reality to enhance its corporate image. The company claims to prioritize fair distribution of its vaccine and claims to be committed to sharing its scientific tools and insights – when the truth is quite different.
“We are still in the midst of an unprecedented global health and human rights crisis and it is essential that all countries of the world have access to vaccines as soon as possible. Pfizer says it’s committed to delivering doses to low- and middle-income countries, but the numbers don’t confirm this. The fact is, this company still puts profit first,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Head of Business and Human Rights.
Pfizer executives have repeatedly claimed that the US-based multinational will have delivered at least one billion doses to “low- and middle-income countries”.
But the language is misleading. The World Bank classifies economies for analytical purposes into four income groups: low, lower middle, upper middle and high income. In these statements, however, Pfizer has lumped the low, middle and upper middle countries – more than 84% of the world’s population – into one group and referred to them as “low and middle-income”. Within this very broad category, the majority of Pfizer’s doses actually went to upper-middle-income countries such as Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand.
Pfizer said it had shipped a total of two billion doses by the end of September. In a letter to Amnesty International in November, the company admitted that of these, just 154 million doses — less than 8 percent of the total — had reached 42 low- and lower-middle-income countries. Pfizer said it had distributed less than 10 percent of this (or 15.4 million) to low-income countries.
“As much as these companies are eager to mass the facts, the numbers are crystal clear — they still deliver the majority of their doses to wealthier parts of the world,” said Patrick Wilcken.
As much as these companies like to massage the facts, the numbers are crystal clear: they are still delivering the majority of their doses to wealthier parts of the world.”
Pfizer’s claims that they are “committed to sharing our scientific tools and insights” are in stark contrast to the fact that the company has not joined the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (CTAP), which was established to and knowledge pooling, and not participating in the WHO mRNA vaccine Technology Transfer hub in South Africa, which significantly slows down the development of manufacturing sites in Africa.
According to the WHO, only 4.4% of the continent’s population is fully vaccinated and the population urgently needs access to life-saving vaccines. Pfizer has also actively lobbied against the World Trade Organization’s TRIPS Waiver, which would temporarily suspend intellectual property rights, which could expand global production capacity of Covid-19 vaccines.
In addition, despite claims that Pfizer’s development and production costs related to the Covid-19 vaccine are fully self-funded, the company has benefited from pre-orders from some of the world’s richest countries, as well as major government support. which the German company received. partner BioNTech.
Pfizer is not alone in these failures. The other European and US-based Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers, BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have all similarly blocked technology sharing and lobbied against the proposed TRIPS exemption.
According to data from Airfinity, a science and analytics firm, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also have a particularly poor record of fair vaccine distribution. About 96% of Moderna’s vaccines still go to upper middle and high-income countries.
In the past 50 days, only 100,000 of the 52 million doses delivered have gone to low-income countries. The Johnson & Johnson breakdown is also inadequate. According to Airfinity, Johnson & Johnson has supplied only 11% of its vaccines to low-income countries and another 5% to low-middle-income countries, with the remaining 84% going to upper-middle and high-income countries.
“With 50 days left until the end of the year, it is not too late for these pharmaceutical giants to save themselves, do the right thing and live up to their human rights responsibilities. To achieve this, they need to increase fairer distribution and ensure that half of the doses they produce before the end of 2021 go to these countries,” says Patrick Wilcken.
“By taking action now, they could help vaccinate an additional 1.2 billion people in low- and lower-middle-income countries by the end of the year — saving at least 2 million* lives.”
Amnesty International supports the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40% of people in low- and lower-middle-income countries by the end of 2021 with its 100 Day Countdown campaign. The 100 Day Countdown: 2 Billion Vaccines Now! campaign calls on states and pharmaceutical companies to take urgent action to meet that life-saving goal.
According to Amnesty International, this can be achieved if pharmaceutical companies supply 50% of their vaccines between September 21, 2021 and December 31, 2021 to low- and lower-middle-income countries; states redistribute the hundreds of millions of surplus vaccines currently in their stockpiles; and as states and pharmaceutical companies urgently increase the global supply of Covid-19 vaccines by sharing knowledge and technology.
Amnesty will hold demonstrations in November outside the offices of pharmaceutical companies around the world, including Pfizer, to call on the company to stop blocking access to vaccines, start sharing and save lives.
Notes to editors:
- On September 21, 2021, Amnesty International launched the 100 Day Countdown, calling on states and pharmaceutical companies to take urgent action to meet that life-saving goal.
- Amnesty International calculated that if 2 billion vaccines were delivered to 82 low- and lower-middle-income countries, an additional 1.2 billion people could be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021. That is the number of vaccinations needed for the WHO to meet its 40% target in these countries.
- *Airfinity estimates that between 100,000 and 225,000 lives could be saved for every 100 million doses administered – meaning meeting a target to vaccinate an additional 1.2 billion people in low- and lower-middle-income countries, at least 2 million lives could save.
- Commenting on Amnesty International, Pfizer said: “We recognize and are concerned about the relatively slower rate at which vaccines eventually reached low-income countries, but it is also important to recognize that approximately two-thirds of the 1.3 billion people who living in poverty are located in middle-income countries. Low-middle-income and upper-middle-income countries currently live in 75% of the world’s population and 62% of the world’s poor. Nevertheless, we expect there to be a substantial increase in dose shipments by the end of the year, with a particular focus on low- and lower-middle-income countries that are further away from global targets.”
- On the issue of intellectual property rights, Pfizer added that “the intellectual property framework protects innovation and ensures secure transfer of technical knowledge” and that the company “will continue to pursue opportunities to bring new partners into its supply chain network to enable access further accelerate towards the Covid vaccine.”