State-funded vaccines will make millions for a few private individuals

Around the world it was governments – and tax payers – who funded the research for the vaccines. Yet they won’t get a share in the huge profits to be made from them, reports Mary Dejevsky

Monday 10 May 2021 00:01
<p>AstraZeneca is being marketed on a non-profit basis</p>

AstraZeneca is being marketed on a non-profit basis

Back in the depths of winter, it all seemed so simple. A mixture of surprise, delight and enormous relief greeted the announcement from the pharmaceutical collaboration, Pfizer-BioNTech, that the vaccine it was developing was more than 90 per cent effective against Covid-19, and could be widely available within weeks.

Pfizer-BioNTech – a joint US-German venture – had been pipped to the post by the US company, Moderna, which had announced a similar success a few days before. They were both swiftly followed by announcements from the link-up between Oxford University and the UK-Swedish company AstraZeneca (UK-Sweden), then by the venerable American concern, Johnson & Johnson. Similarly hopeful news was also to be heard out of Russia, after trials of its state-backed Sputnik V vaccine.

All this sudden success had its own faces. The first belonged to a shyly smiling German couple of Turkish origin, Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci. It was their company, BioNTech, that had joined with Pfizer to develop the first Covid vaccine that came to market. They were dubbed “the Dreamteam” by some for putting Germany’s Turkish minority on the national and international map in the best of ways and embodying the achievements of an ethnic group in Germany not always associated with success.

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