(CNN Business) – Covid-19 vaccines created at least nine new billionaires, after shares in the companies that produce the doses soared.
At the top of the list of new billionaires are Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, and Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, which produced one of the vaccines together with Pfizer. Both CEOs now have wealth of about $ 4 billion, according to a analysis from the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a group that includes Oxfam, UNAIDS, Global Justice Now and Amnesty International.
Senior executives at Chinese company CanSino Biologics and Moderna’s early investors also turned billionaires on paper as stocks soared, in part on the expectation of investors. benefits obtained from vaccines against covid-19, which also augur good prospects for the future for companies. The analysis was compiled using data from the Forbes millionaires list.
The meteoric rise of the shares of Moderna, BioNTech and CanSino
Moderna’s share price has risen more than 700% since February 2020. BioNTech’s, meanwhile, shot up 600%. CanSino Biologics stock increased approximately 440% during the same period. The company’s single-dose vaccine was approved for use in China in February.
Activists said that wealth generation underscores the stark inequality that emerges as a result of the pandemic. The new nine billionaires have a combined wealth of $ 19.3 trillion, enough money to fully vaccinate some 780 million people in low-income countries, according to activists.
“These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits that many pharmaceutical corporations make from their monopoly on these vaccines,” Anne Marriott, Oxfam’s head of health policy, said in a statement. These vaccines were financed with public money and should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity, “he added.
The discussion about vaccine patents
The report coincides with the G20 Global Health Summit taking place this Friday, in which world leaders discuss the possibility of waiving intellectual property rights on vaccines.
US President Joe Biden backed the move that supporters say will help expand the world’s supply and narrow the vaccination gap between rich and poor countries. Opponents like Germany have argued that protecting intellectual property is vital for innovation, saying that removing patents will not significantly increase supply due to limited production capacity and insufficient number of vaccine components.
According to the World Health Organization, 87% of vaccine doses have gone to high- or upper-middle-income countries. Low-income countries, for their part, have received only 0.2%. In a document released Friday, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said that vaccinating 60% of the world’s population by mid-2022 would cost just $ 50 billion.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, said during Friday’s summit that the company will provide 2 billion doses of its vaccine to low- and middle-income countries over the next 18 months. Pfizer expects its sales of the vaccine to total $ 26 billion by the end of this year, with a profit margin close to 30%.
Bourla defended the decision to profit from the vaccine. He said his company took all the risk to develop it and invested $ 2 billion in research and development.
Obstacles to supply
BioNTech, which received 325 million euros ($ 397 million) from the German government to develop the vaccine, said it is committed to supplying it to low-income countries at cost. “We all know that no one is going to be safe until everyone is safe,” the company added.
Among the biggest obstacles to increasing the global supply of vaccines are complex manufacturing processes and the time it takes to build new factories, the company said in a statement shared with CNN Business. “Patents are not the limiting factor,” he said.
How much have companies made so far?
BioNTech made a net profit of 1.1 billion euros (US $ 1.3 billion) in the first quarter of the year, largely due to its share of the sales of the Covid-19 vaccine. During the same period last year, the company posted a loss of € 53.4 million ($ 75.9 million).
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine sales reached $ 1.7 billion in the first three months of this year. It was the company’s first profitable quarter, as reported in early May. Goldman Sachs expects Moderna to see $ 13.2 billion in vaccine revenue in 2021. The company received billions of dollars in US government funding for the drug’s development.
CanSino Biologics and Moderna did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement last month, Bancel said Moderna is willing to license its intellectual property to other companies “for the period after the pandemic.”
AstraZeneca, which developed a vaccine with researchers at the University of Oxford, agreed to provide doses at cost until at least July 2021, and in perpetuity for low- and middle-income countries. Johnson & Johnson has also said it will provide its vaccine on a non-profit basis as the world continues to suffer from the pandemic.
Chris Isidore and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.