At least nine persons have become new billionaires since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, thanks to the profits from pharmaceutical corporations.
The nine new billionaires have a combined net wealth of $19.3 billion, enough to fully vaccinate all people in low-income countries 1.3 times.
The CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech top the list of nine individuals who became billionaires on the back of the rollout of vaccines against Covid-19.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel is the richest new ‘vaccine billionaire,’ followed by Ugur Sahin, his counterpart from BioNTech. Each is now worth over $4 billion. Others on the list include three Moderna investors, the chair of a firm contracted to manufacture and package Moderna’s product, and the three co-founders of the Chinese vaccine producer CanSino Biologics.
Eight others, whose wealth had already topped the billion-dollar benchmark when the pandemic hit, have seen their wealth grow significantly. They include people linked to China’s Chongqing Zhifei Biological and Sinopharm, India’s Cadila Healthcare and the Serum Institute of India, and holders of BioNTech stock.
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 intellectual ownership control.
“These billionaires are the human face of huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold on these vaccines,” said Anna Marriott, the health policy manager at charity Oxfam, a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance. “We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices, and vaccinate the world. 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."
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of another Alliance member, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, said it was “obscene that profits continue to come before saving lives,” as patent holders refused to share their technology.
Heidi Chow, Senior Policy and Campaigns Manager at Global Justice Now, said:
“As thousands of people die each day in India, it is utterly repugnant that the UK, Germany and others want to put the interests of the billionaire owners of Big Pharma ahead of the desperate needs of millions.
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. The pandemic has come at a terrible human cost, so it is obscene that profits continue to come before saving lives.”
The nine new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:
- Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3billion)
- Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4 billion)
- Timothy Springer, an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
- Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9 billion)
- Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8 billion)
- Robert Langer, a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6 billion)
- Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3 billion)
- Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2)
- Mao Huinhoa, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1 billion)