By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” Dec. 31, 2021)
The COVID-19 Pandemic has turned nine big pharma executives and investors into billionaires. They now have a combined wealth of US$20 billion. But there is more: Eight other big pharma investors who were already billionaires have increased their wealth by another $32 billion.
Topping the list of new billionaires who cashed in on the COVID vaccines are the CEOs of Moderna and BioNTech, each with a wealth of over US$4 billion. This is despite the fact that taxpayers paid for the vast majority of the fund for the Moderna vaccine.
In August 2020, Texas democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett warned that the power of the pharmaceuticals industry combined with fear was driving the extraordinary public spending in vaccine research and development. He cautioned about pandemic profiteering. “It’s a rosy time ahead for the pharmaceutical industry,” Doggett warned.
Here’s a glimpse of the price gouging that has occurred. Remdesivir, which Doggett said was “pulled off the scrap heap” to become a significant revenue earner, a repurposed drug that failed to gain approval as a treatment for hepatitis and Ebola, became a product in high demand until its ineffectiveness was laid bare. The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review noted that the raw material to produce Remdesivir cost US$10. It is sold for US$3,400 per dose.
Many in the pharmaceutical industry knew that the effort to secure an effective cure or treatment for COVID would be elusive. Dr Robert Gallo, co-founder and international advisor to the Global Virus Network and one of the world’s leading virologists, worried that “the unique characteristics of COVID 19 will make it hard for any traditional vaccines to have ‘durability.’ You look at the structure of the proteins and it’s a lot like HIV. Similar antibodies do not last.”
So said so done. But Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson and Astra Zenaca all offered up false claims that their vaccines had an efficacy rate of 90 plus percent. We now know that the vaccine’s effectiveness wears off between four to six months. As a result, Israel is on its fourth shot, and the UK and the United States follow closely behind with the recommendation that their citizens take the third shot.
Yet the governments, mass media, and major institutions remain unwavering in their commitment to vaccines. Israel’s attorney general announced last Monday that the government will continue to pressure unvaccinated people and lock them out of everyday activities even though the epidemiological value of such actions are questionable.
In SVG, hundreds of workers were dismissed early this month because they refused to take the vaccine. Austria, Australia, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands insist on restrictive measures in the face of widespread opposition from doctors, epidemiologists, scientists and large sections of their population.
To understand the cash cow that COVID has become, consider this fact: the nine new billionaires created through the sale of vaccines have a combined wealth greater than the cost of vaccinating the world’s poorest countries.
Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said, “What a testament to our collective failure to control this cruel disease that we quickly create new vaccine billionaires but totally fail to vaccinate the billions who desperately need to feel safe. These billionaires are the human face of the huge profits many pharmaceutical corporations are making from their monopoly on these vaccines. These vaccines were funded by public money and should be, first and foremost, a global public good, not a private profit opportunity. We need to urgently end these monopolies so that we can scale up vaccine production, drive down prices and vaccinate the world.”
According to UN Population 2020, the population of countries considered “low income” or the world poorest is 775,710,712. The wealth of the new billionaires could vaccine all low-Income countries 1.3 times. The population of India (according to UN Population 2020) is 1.38 billion, and the increase in wealth of the eight existing billionaires could vaccine everyone in India 1.2 times.
Understand as well that countries like Brazil, India and South Africa have been pleading to the rich countries to disregard the patent and break the monopoly to allow for cheap production of these drugs. The G8 countries have stoutly resisted any such move, thus guaranteeing that their pharmaceutical companies continue to reap huge profits.
The saddest part of this tragicomedy is that, as Dr. Gallo and others predicted very early, the vaccines have not lived up to the skilled marketing hype for efficacy and safety.
The public was sold the idea that if they took the vaccines, they would not become infected and could not infect others. They were told that they would not need to wear masks or social distance. They would not become sick or die, and that life will return to normal for them. A whole year after the vaccine roll-out, the most vaccinated countries in the world are the same states with huge spikes in COVID infections, mounting hospitalisation and death among the vaccinated.
Last month the Atlantic magazine carried a piece titled “COVID: Pandemic of the vaccinated”. What a sharp turn from President Biden’s presumptuous declaration in July that COVID was a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
In Africa, where less than 10% of the population is vaccinated, there has not been a severe or deadly COVID scare in any 54 independent states.
Even as the mild symptoms of the Omicron variant swiftly go from country to country, the public is treated to scare-um tactics intended to sell even more vaccines. No one in authority stops to think, plan and emphasise treatment.
To the delight of the pharmaceutical companies, there remains a permanent vaccine gaze. In this season of giving, COVID remains the gift that keeps on giving.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].