Billionaires, thanks to COVID-19


People’s Vaccine Alliance recently, on 20th May 2021, revealed that at least nine people have become new billionaires since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, thanks to the excessive profit pharmaceutical corporations with monopolies on COVID vaccines are making.

While most citizens and small business owners are facing financial difficulties during this time of COVID-19, there are some people who have become overnight billionaires. This is mostly due to the surge in demand of vaccines over the past 6 months.

These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from the monopoly they hold over the vaccines. In fact, the research and development of the COVID vaccines was funded by public money, therefore it is only right that the said vaccines should be first and foremost a global public good, not a private profit opportunity.

Another issue due to the monopolies is that vaccination production is taking place at a slower rate. If these monopolies did not exist, the production of vaccines could be scaled up and the prices for procuring the vaccines would decrease. This would encourage herd immunity by vaccinating as many people as possible, which was the aim of the vaccination program from the very beginning.

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. Parties have 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 to secure the stocks they need.

Earlier this month the US backed proposals by South Africa and India at the World Trade Organization to temporarily break up these monopolies and lift the patents on COVID-19 vaccines. This move has the support of over 100 developing countries, and in recent days, countries like Spain have also declared their support, as has the Pope and over 100 world leaders and Nobel Laureates.

The 9 new vaccine billionaires, in order of their net worth are:

  1. Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO (worth $4.3 billion)
  2. Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech (worth $4 billion)
  3. Timothy Springer, an immunologist and founding investor of Moderna (worth $2.2bn)
  4. Noubar Afeyan, Moderna’s Chairman (worth $1.9 billion)
  5. Juan Lopez-Belmonte, Chairman of ROVI, a company with a deal to manufacture and package the Moderna vaccine (worth $1.8 billion)
  6. Robert Langer, a scientist and founding investor in Moderna (worth $1.6 billion)
  7. Zhu Tao, co-founder and chief scientific officer at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.3 billion)
  8. Qiu Dongxu, co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1.2)
  9. Mao Huihua, also co-founder and senior vice president at CanSino Biologics (worth $1 billion)

While COVID-19 has been disquieting for most of us, there are still some who have managed to find the silver lining in these times by seizing the opportunities in the market.



Photo: Oxfam Ireland


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