Representative image
Representative image
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At least nine people have become new billionaires since the beginning of COVID pandemic, thanks to the excessive profits pharmaceutical corporations with monopolies on COVID vaccines are making, the People's Vaccine Alliance-a campaign group, said on Thursday ahead of a G20 leaders global health summit.

They are: Stephane Bancel, Moderna's CEO (worth 4.3 billion dollars), Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth 4 billion dollars), Timothy Springer, an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth 2.2 billion dollars), Noubar Afeyan, Moderna's Chairman (worth 1.9 billion dollars), Juan Lopez Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth 1.8 billion dollars), Robert Langer, a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth 1.6 billion dollars), Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth 1.3 billion dollars), Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth 1.2 billion dollars) and Mao Huinhoa, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth 1 billion dollars). Key members of the G20 who meet on Friday are blocking moves to boost supply by ending companies' monopoly control of vaccine production as COVID-19 continues to devastate lives in countries like India and Nepal where only a tiny fraction of the population has been vaccinated.

Between them, the nine new billionaires, have a combined net wealth of 19.3 billion dollars, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times. Meanwhile, these countries have received only 0.2 percent of the global supply of vaccines because of the massive shortfall in available doses despite being home to 10 per cent of the world's population.

In addition, eight existing billionaires -- who have extensive portfolios in the COVID-19 vaccine pharma corporations -- have seen their combined wealth increase by 32.2 billion dollars, enough to fully vaccinate everyone in India.

They include Cyrus Poonawalla, founder of Serum Institute of India whose wealth grew to 12.7 billion dollars in 2021 from 8.2 billion dollars last year, and Pankaj Patel who controls listed company Cadila Healthcare saw his wealth growing to 5 billion dollars this year from 2.9 billion dollars in 2020.

Campaigners from the People's Vaccine Alliance, whose members include Global Justice Now, Oxfam and UNAIDS, have analysed Forbes Rich List data to highlight the massive wealth being generated for a handful of people from vaccines which were largely public funded.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam's Health Policy Manager, said: "What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe."

She added: "These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines. These vaccines were funded by public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity. We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world."

Vaccine billionaires are being created as stocks in pharmaceutical firms rise rapidly in expectation of huge profits from the COVID-19 vaccines over which these firms have monopoly control. The alliance warned that these monopolies allow pharmaceutical corporations total control over the supply and price of vaccines, pushing up their profits while making it harder for poor countries, in particular, to secure the stocks they need.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said: "While the companies making massive profits from COVID vaccines are refusing to share their science and technology with others in order to increase the global vaccine supply, the world continues to face the very real risk of mutations that could render the vaccines we have ineffective and put everyone at risk all over again."

She added: "The pandemic has come at a terrible human cost, so it is obscene that profits continue to come before saving lives."

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