In February, Pfizer was accused of “bullying” governments in COVID vaccine negotiations in a groundbreaking story by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. A government official at the time noted, “Five years in the future when these confidentiality agreements are over you will learn what really happened in these negotiations.”
Public Citizen has identified several unredacted Pfizer contracts that describe the outcome of these negotiations. The contracts offer a rare glimpse into the power one pharmaceutical corporation has gained to silence governments, throttle supply, shift risk and maximize profits in the worst public health crisis in a century. We describe six examples from around the world below.
Pfizer’s ability to control key decisions reflects the power imbalance in vaccine negotiations. Under the vast majority of contracts, Pfizer’s interests come first.
Pfizer’s dominance over sovereign countries poses fundamental challenges to the pandemic response. Governments can push back. The U.S. government, in particular, can exercise the leverage it holds over Pfizer to require a better approach. Empowering multiple manufacturers to produce the vaccine via technology transfer and a TRIPS waiver can rein in Pfizer’s power. Public health should come first.