The price for the United States was in line with the cost of seasonal flu shots and much cheaper than vaccines for conditions like shingles, which can cost several hundred dollars.

“This price point doesn’t sound offensive, even if you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about prescription drugs,” said Stacie Dusetzina, associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Thinking of any prescription you would fill, you’d be hard pressed to find just about anything for $ 20.

But the fact that Pfizer appears to have earned some $ 900 million in pre-tax profits from its vaccine – coupled with its relatively low sales to poor countries – suggests that profits have trumped other considerations. This could affect the company’s adherence to higher principles.

“At Pfizer, we believe that everyone deserves to be seen, heard and cared for,” said Managing Director Albert Bourla, said in january as the company announced it would be joining Covax. “We share the mission of Covax and are proud to work together so that developing countries have the same access as the rest of the world.”

But the company appears to have prioritized sales at higher prices.

“Despite all the talk about Covax, they were much more interested in bilateral deals because that’s where they make their money,” said Richard Kozul-Wright, director of the division on globalization and development strategies. at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Development in Geneva. “This is one of the great public relations triumphs in recent company history.”

There are multiple factors behind the inequitable nature of Pfizer vaccine distribution.

Shot, which must be stored and transported at very low temperatures, is less practical for hard-to-reach parts of the world than other plans, like those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which can simply be refrigerated. Some poor countries were not initially hit hard by the virus, so their governments had less urgency to place orders for the Pfizer vaccine, as they could afford to pay for the vaccines.

“Not everyone was interested in the vaccine or was ready to take action; so conversations continue, including working with Covax beyond their initial order of 40 million doses, ”said Ms. Castillo, spokesperson for Pfizer.

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