Blood Money: How to Turn a Profit from a Pandemic


Associated Press

Pfizer Corporation world headquarters in New York City, New York.

Noah Edelman, Editor in Chief

I began thinking about this article about a year ago. Back then, the idea of COVID was much more anecdotal, with many people’s opinions and actions about the virus being driven by emotion and personal revelations. As time went on, however, my thought process gradually grew to include both sympathy for those affected and suspicion of those in the shadows. Lofty corporate interests play marionette with the fates of those dying in developing nations, and not even governments can say something.

At risk of sounding conspiratorial, I suspect there is some (crucially, not New World Order secret cabal-related) senseless salivation over potential capital to be gained circulating through the likes of Pfizer, Moderna, GSK, and other pharmaceutical conglomerates. So how do they go about turning death to dollar, and why are they so good at it? 

By being the legal owner of the patented coronavirus vaccine, corporations exercise particular powers over their intellectual property and its interactions with federal and civilian distribution programs. These vaccines cost money, and the US government has subsidized free doses for every American citizen who wants it. According to BioSpace, Pfizer reported selling one hundred million initial doses to the American government at the price of $19.50 a dose. Interestingly, Oxfam International reports that analysis of Pfizer’s ingredients and production processes indicate that the true cost of producing a single dose is actually around $1.50. Additionally, Pfizer projects its 2021 vaccine sales to exceed $33.5 billion, exposing an international artificial-inflation scheme which disproportionately affects developing nations. Oxfam notes: 

“Pfizer/BioNTech are charging their lowest reported price of $6.75 [per dose] to the African Union, but this is still nearly 6 times more than the estimated potential production cost of this vaccine. One dose of the vaccine costs the same as [what] Uganda spends per citizen on health in a whole year. The highest reported price paid for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines was paid by Israel at $28 a dose ― nearly 24 times the potential production cost.

Inspired, and ostensibly motivated, by Pfizer’s profiteering, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have followed suit in search of untapped profits. With projected sales for both corporations surpassing $20 billion, an eyebrow must be raised at some point. Oxfam offers this about the Moderna practices:

“Moderna has charged countries between 4 and 13 times the potential cost price of the vaccine and reportedly offered South Africa a price between $30-42 a dose ― nearly 15 times higher than the potential production cost.”

The logic here is evil. Underdeveloped and less financially prosperous nations are forced to pay premiums for vaccines, simply because they need them so badly, and are unable to reproduce them locally due to intellectual property restrictions put in place by corporations’ legal teams. Even in the US, Oxfam reports that booster doses may be sold to the government at a price of $175 per dose, which is 148 times higher than the cost of production.

I still struggle to understand this display of unregulated capitalism. Humanitarian needs are boiled down to a potential profit, and every cent counts. Why are we allowing these corporations to relentlessly and overtly exploit our most vulnerable nations, and extract profit from younger populations through incentivizing subsidization through tax hikes? Despite Biden’s empty calls for intellectual property waivers, the World Trade Organization and the American delegation refused to take decisive action on a waiver. They did, however, “agree to continue discussions” on a proposal sponsored by at least fifteen nations and two large international groups, the African Union and the Least Developed Countries Group. 

The idea is pretty obvious here, given the name of those two groups. I wonder why a proposal backed by the African Union and the Least Developed Countries is meeting resistance from rich countries, such as the European Union and the US. Pfizer, Moderna, and other corporations understand that there is simply more money to be made in wealthy countries, and will eventually resort to extracting the wealth from developing countries because they have exhausted their other markets. In my opinion, these are not humble profits being made by companies seeking world health. This is blood money, held against those who can’t afford salvation, shouldered by suffering populations, and lining the pockets of those who had billions prior to the pandemic.