Vaccine profits and woes


FAIR COMMENT | Alito L. Malinao

Big pharmaceutical companies, especially those in the U.S., are expected to earn billions of dollars from their COVID-19 vaccines now being distributed around the globe.

Wire reports said that despite its being priced at less than $20 per dose, Pfizer-BioNTech is expected to earn a whopping $14 billion before the end of this year. Pfizer expects 2021 revenues of between $44 billion and $46 billion, with profits of at least $14 billion, not counting any spike in revenue from its COVID vaccine. Its revenues in 2020 totaled $41.9 billion.

Moderna, a relatively new pharmaceutical company which had no approved products for sale as recently as 2019, had only $60 million in revenue that year, but took in $529 million in grant revenue and $200 million from early sales of its vaccine in 2020. The forecast for 2021 is for revenue of $16 billion.

The report said that developing the vaccines was a gamble for all of the companies that tried, even with most drug makers accepting government grants.

Obviously, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have succeeded pretty well. Pfizer did not take any taxpayer money to develop its vaccine and assumed all of the risk with an investment of between $1 billion to $2 billion in research and development.

Although Johnson & Johnson has said it will provide the vaccine on a not-for-profit basis as long as the world continues suffering from the pandemic, that doesn’t mean the company won’t ever make money from it.

Governments around the globe have placed orders for 18 billion doses of various vaccines since late last year and this year, according to an estimate from Airfinity, a London based research firm. That’s more than enough to vaccinate every one of the world’s population of nearly 8 billion.

Vaccine woes

Amidst reported huge profits, there are some negative developments concerning the safety of the vaccines now being distributed in various countries.

In the U.S., a healthy 39-year-old woman with no existing ailments suddenly died after receiving her second dose of the Moderna vaccine.

In Europe several countries halted their rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine after a few died of blood clots after having been vaccinated with a UK-made vaccine.

Germany, France and Italy joined several European nations in blocking the roll out of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after several cases of blood clotting were reported among those who took the jab.

The Netherlands, the Irish Republic, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria and Iceland were the first countries to stop using AstraZeneca.

But after the huge surge of the virus, some EU countries decided to resume the rollout of AstraZeneca after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that there is no evidence that the deaths were caused by the vaccine.

About 17 million people in the EU and the UK have received a dose of the vaccine, with fewer than 40 cases of blood clots reported as of last week, according to AstraZeneca.

The Philippines has so far received some 525,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, courtesy of COVAX, a UN-led vaccine sharing scheme to provide less-developed countries such as the Philippines with vaccines. Millions of AstraZeneca vaccines are expected to arrive in the country in the coming months.

As usual, our health authorities are saying that there is no cause for alarm. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that AstraZeneca, which is now being vaccinated on health workers, is safe and effective.

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