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A Tortoise File

Pfizer’s war

Pfizer has produced a brilliantly effective vaccine against Covid-19, but the way it’s sold it has given the company an unrivalled reputation for prioritising the bottom line over the wider good

Pfizer’s War

First published
Monday 27 September 2021

Last updated
Monday 27 September 2021

Why this story?

The pandemic has asked moral questions of all of us. How do our actions affect people around us? Businesses face a similar test to balance corporate responsibility and the common good, and in this week’s Slow Newscast we make the case that Pfizer has failed its moral test. The manufacturer of one of the most effective and widely-deployed vaccines against Covid-19, it stands accused of publicly undermining AstraZeneca’s vaccine and selfishly prioritising full-price sales in wealthy countries before contemplating selling vaccines to the poor. The numbers tell their own story: billions of doses sold to the developed world and a vanishingly-small fraction of that number to low income countries; more than $60bn in revenues from the vaccine alone this year and next. In the war to profit from the pandemic, Pfizer is a huge winner. But that victory means its contribution to beating the pandemic has been a fraction of what it might have been. Ceri Thomas, editor