Behind every great fortune...
You know the mRNA Covid vaccines made lots of money for Pfizer, Moderna, and BioNTech. But did you have any idea how much?
In summer 2020, as Covid vaccines moved ahead at Warp Speed, the companies behind them promised they wouldn’t make too much money on them.
Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca both promised to sell their vaccines on a non-profit basis. J&J even committed to charging a single price worldwide, rather than charging countries like the United States more.
Pfizer chairman Albert Bourla was also emphatic. His company was developing a Covid vaccine for the good of humanity, not for money, he told Time magazine in July 2020.
“This is not business as usual,” he said. “If you were calculating return on investment, we would never do these things. We were discussing that back in March, what that means to human lives, to the economy of the world. So it was a must, that we must take those measures.”
A must! Thus Pfizer would not overcharge for the mRNA vaccine it was developing with the German company BioNTech, Bourla said.
“We are going to charge governments … a very, very nominal value,” he said [ellipsis in original interview]. Because Pfizer would charge so little, it believed governments should give its shot “free of charge to all citizens,” he said.
Asked directly if Pfizer intended to profit, Bourla said, “we will make a very, very marginal profit at this stage.”
Bourla did not define “at this stage.” But he could not have been referring to the moment of the interview. Pfizer was not making money on the vaccine at all in mid-2020. It was spending, as it moved the shot into a large clinical trial.
(Practically giving it away!)
Instead, Bourla appeared to mean the period in which Covid vaccine purchasing and distribution would be government-controlled and the shots offered globally to everyone for free — the “emergency” phase of the epidemic. Even J&J and AstraZeneca did not promise to sell their shots on a nonprofit basis forever.
In other words, Bourla appeared to say that for at least as long as the United States declared Covid an emergency, Pfizer would charge a “very nominal” price and make a “very marginal profit” on its vaccine.
(I DON’T MAKE AS MUCH MONEY AS PFIZER, BUT I STILL GOTTA CHARGE EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE)