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Vaccine makers earn billions as poor countries struggle

November 16, 2021

Pharma giants are earning millions every day with COVID vaccines, but leaving poorer nations in the lurch, an activist alliance says. The WHO reports that the delta variant has "outcompeted" others. DW has the latest.

Syringe on US dollars
Pharma companies are earning billions for their vaccines but poorer nations are still missing outImage: Jiri Hera//Zoonar/picture alliance

The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are earning combined profits of over $1,000 (€880) every second — $93.5 million a day pretax — by selling their COVID-19 vaccines to rich countries, while just 2% of people in poorer countries are vaccinated, according to a new analysis.

The People's Vaccine Alliance (PVA), which based its analysis on earning reports from the companies themselves, reports that, despite receiving billions in public funding, the companies ignored calls to transfer vaccine technology to producers in poorer countries. Doing so could save millions of lives, the PVA said.

The actions of the three companies contrasts with that of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which have provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis. However, even they say they are considering dropping that principle as the pandemic wanes.  

Germany and the United Kingdom are among the countries that oppose the proposed waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines that has been called for by the PVA. The alliance has some 80 members including Oxfam, UNAIDS and the African Alliance.

Health experts have warned that COVID-19 must be effectively combated in all countries if the pandemic is to be controlled.

Diagram showing vaccination rates in the world
There is great inequity in vaccination rates across the globe

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:


The World Health Organization (WHO) says the delta variant is now behind 99.5% of coronavirus infections globally. According to the WHO, the variant has "outcompeted" other versions of the COVID-19.

The only region bucking the trend is South America, where the gamma, lambda and mu variants are still causing a large proportion of cases.


Germany on Tuesday reported 32,048 new cases of coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours and 265 COVID-related deaths. That brings the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases registered in the country to 5,077,124 and the death toll  to 97,980. The seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people rose to 312.4, up from 303 on Monday.

Meanwhile, authorities in the southern German state of Bavaria have decided to cancel Munich's traditional Christmas market.

"The dramatic situation in our hospitals and the exponentially rising infection figures leave me no other choice," said the city's mayor Dieter Reiter on Tuesday. The decision comes as infection numbers surge in the fourth wave of the pandemic.

The popular market attracted 3 million people the last time it was held.

Ukraine reported a record 24-hour death toll from COVID-related cases on Tuesday, with 838 deaths registered, the Health Ministry said. The previous high on November 9 was 833 deaths. In all, the country has reported 3.24 million cases of COVID-19 and 77,985 deaths.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy offered to pay 1,000 hryvnias (€33, $38) to everyone in the country who gets vaccinated. The government has allocated 3 billion hryvnias for the program this year and another 3 billion for 2022.

Ukraine has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Europe, with less than 20% of the population fully vaccinated.

The Czech Republic on Tuesday reported 11,514 new COVID-19 cases for November 15, the fifth time that daily infections have topped 10,000 in past seven days, according to Health Ministry data.

The Belgian government is planning to impose a vaccine mandate for all health workers starting January 1. Employees will have a three-month window to get their shots, after which they may be dismissed from their jobs if they fail to comply.

The decision comes as Belgium experiences a surge of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

In Bulgaria, the EU country with the lowest vaccination rate (about 22% of its population), the government released figures showing a 50% excess death rate across the nation for September.

Greek restaurants, coffee shops, and caters launched a strike on Tuesday to protest the lack of adequate financial aid from the government. Officials in Athens are set to decide this week whether to implement new contact restrictions as infection numbers continue to rise.


The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland. COVID-19 cases in the three countries have been on the rise.


Government officials in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, say the country is to begin with a massive vaccination campaign this week. They say the aim is to vaccinate half its targeted population by the end of January.  
tj,es/dj (Reuters, AFP)

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