It’s no secret that pharmaceutical companies have been criticised for their unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines. Oxfam has won several battles to obtain pricing and intellectual property information from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and Moderna.
Shareholders of J&J will have an opportunity to vote on an Oxfam proposal to compel the company to release its COVID-19 vaccine pricing strategy. Oxfam had previously asked J&J to reveal the data because the drug company had received significant US government funding to develop the shot. According to Oxfam, 32% of J&J shareholders ended up voting for a similar resolution last year.
On the other hand, Moderna and Pfizer shareholders will decide whether to investigate the possibility of sharing vaccine technology to boost global production. Many of the world’s mRNA shots went to developed countries, leaving low- and middle-income countries waiting for generosity. Ever since Oxfam submitted the shareholder resolutions late last year, the multinationals asked the SEC to eliminate them from their annual meeting materials.
As per Oxfam, all three resolutions (Pfizer, J&J, and Moderna) withstood SEC pleas and are progressing forward. Moderna’s request was denied because it goes beyond regular business matters and seeks to micro-manage the business. The SEC disagreed with J&J’s public disclosures that they substantially implemented the proposal. Various global groups have criticised the vaccine heavyweights since the COVID-19 immunisation drive began last year. Vaccine patents were questioned last March as it became clear that developing countries would face a serious supply shortage. In May 2021, the Biden administration endorsed a WTO proposal to revoke intellectual property protections for COVID shots, allowing companies worldwide to produce their own doses.
The move enraged the industry, which argues that established vaccine players are best placed to quickly ramp up production. Companies claim that dissolving patent rights will lead to a global raw material war, reducing output.
In the meantime, COVID vaccine sales have soared, particularly at Pfizer and Moderna. 2021 COVID-19 vaccine sales were $36.8 billion for Pfizer and $17.7 billion for Moderna.