Covid-19: Pharma companies must make structural changes to ensure world can withstand future pandemics

As the Annual General Meetings of pharma’s highest earning companies – Pfizer, Moderna, Merck and Johnson and Johnson – come to a close without passing resolutions designed to facilitate the universal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, Tamaryn Nelson, Health Advisor from Amnesty International, said:  

“For the past three years, those at the helm of Big Pharma companies have seen earnings soar, while people in low- and lower-middle-income countries are still struggling to access lifesaving medicines. While their efforts to speedily develop Covid-19 vaccines should be recognised, it’s clear pharmaceutical companies have failed in their human rights responsibilities when it comes to ensuring equal access – and continue to do so. Why aren’t investors holding them to account?

“In the race to develop life-saving vaccines, people in lower-income countries were left behind and the global allocation of Covid-19 vaccines remains one of the worst examples of global inequality to date. Three years on, not much has changed. With reports that Pfizer and Moderna are considering quadrupling the price of each Covid-19 vaccine in some countries, only 25% of people in low-income countries are now fully vaccinated and millions are still waiting for the first dose.  

Yet again, pharma companies have continued to place profit before people and investors have failed to hold them to account.

Tamaryn Nelson, Health Advisor, Amnesty International

“This year’s AGMs were an opportunity for Big Pharma to right their wrongs and show that when policies focusing on global access, affordability, transparency and accountability are put in place, every country can better cope with a global health crisis. But, yet again, pharma companies have continued to place profit before people and investors have failed to hold them to account.  

“Once again, institutional investors have failed to pass the resolution tabled by Oxfam America, which calls for the commissioning of shareholder reports on the transfer of Covid-19 vaccine technology that would enable manufacturers in low- and lower-middle-income countries to produce vaccines. 

“It’s time for investors to ensure these companies are making structural changes with immediate effect to ensure the world can withstand future pandemics collectively, without leaving anyone behind.”