Rather than making deals with high-income countries, Pfizer must make more vaccine doses available to people in low-income countries through Gavi’s COVAX Facility
NEW YORK/GENEVA, JANUARY 22, 2021—Pfizer and BioNTech announced today a deal to supply up to 40 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to the COVAX Facility. COVAX is a global initiative under Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries. While the agreement is a step in the right direction, it represents only two percent of the deals struck by Pfizer/BioNTech for 2021 and 2022, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The majority of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine doses—75 percent or 1.5 billion of 2 billion doses—has been secured by high-income countries, leaving very few doses for developing countries and humanitarian organizations like MSF. Of a total of over 27.2 million Pfizer/BioNTech doses delivered so far, high-income countries have received almost 27 million doses, middle-income countries have only received approximately 250,000 doses, and low-income countries have received none, according to data from AirFinity. It is critical that low-income countries are not left at the back of the line waiting for vaccines while high-income countries are given privileged access. This pandemic won’t be over for anyone until it’s over for everyone.
Additionally, Pfizer/BioNTech and Gavi—which pays for vaccines for the world’s poorest countries—must be transparent about price, supply, and distribution outlined in their deals. Gavi must, at a minimum, require that all companies it strikes deals with share their technology so all successful vaccines can be produced by additional manufacturers to ensure adequate quantities and meet the global need, regardless of proprietary issues.
The development of the Pfizer vaccine was made possible through significant public funding, including through a grant of nearly $443 million from the German government through its partner BioNTech, and a loan of over $118 million from the European Investment Bank. The World Health Organization (WHO) listed the vaccine for emergency use at the end of December 2020—the only COVID-19 vaccine to receive this approval to date.
From early on in the pandemic, and in light of this significant public investment, MSF has called for any potential future COVID-19 vaccines to be priced at cost and urges Pfizer and any other pharmaceutical corporations entering deals with Gavi to price these vaccines at cost.
Dana Gill, US policy advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign, said of today’s announcement:
“Despite calls from several Heads of State for global solidarity at the beginning of the pandemic, what we see today is a far cry from a picture of equity. So far, wealthier countries have administered nearly 27 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, while no doses have been distributed in low-income countries.
“While today’s announcement from Pfizer for COVAX is a step forward, the devil is in the details.
“Pharma is playing business-as-usual; the deal is only 2 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech’s estimated total doses—a pittance considering their production capacity and the bilateral deals they’ve already struck with high-income countries—and important details around price and delivery are still a secret. If Pfizer is serious about equity and supporting the WHO framework for allocation of COVID-19 vaccines, the bulk of its supply should be offered to the COVAX Facility and priced at cost.
“Transparency across the board is critical to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. Full transparency from Pfizer/BioNTech and Gavi on the agreement, on the prices charged for all the countries taking part in COVAX, and specifically when the doses will be delivered to COVAX countries, is absolutely essential. Billions of dollars of public funding have supported the development of COVID-19 vaccines and the COVAX Facility itself.
“We call on pharmaceutical corporations like Pfizer and its peers to supply the COVAX Facility with the volumes it needs at an at-cost price, and information on this must be made publicly available. If the world is going to emerge from this pandemic, we absolutely must distribute these vaccines equitably, not based upon who can pay the most.”