Pfizer is playing a leading role in producing vaccines against COVID-19, but new documents released by Public Citizen shine a light on the company's aggressive tactics when negotiating supply deals.
In draft and final deals with the U.S., the U.K., Brazil and other countries, Pfizer retained rights to "silence" governments and "throttle supply" in an effort to "maximize profits" amid the world's "worst public health crisis in a century," Public Citizen concluded in its Tuesday report.
For instance, in a deal with Brazil, Pfizer restricted the government from making “any public announcement concerning the existence, subject matter or terms of [the] Agreement” without a signoff from the drugmaker. Brazil also couldn't talk about the country's relationship with Pfizer without a signoff, Public Citizen said.
Similar clauses exist in the company's deals with the U.S. and EU, but allow both parties to issue the final signoff, according to the consumer advocacy group.
On issues of supply, in deals with Brazil, Colombia and Albania, Pfizer can unilaterally change delivery schedules, Public Citizen says. The countries "shall be deemed to agree to any revision," according to the documents.
In some cases, Pfizer held rights to resolve disputes in secret through an arbitration process rather than in public courts, according to the report. Public Citizen says such clauses—in deals with Albania, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Peru—allow the company to "bypass domestic legal processes," which "consolidates corporate power and undermines the rule of law."
Pfizer has already faced criticisms over its supply allocation. While many developed countries have achieved high vaccination rates, some low- and middle-income countries are only getting started with their campaigns. Some countries have called for an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization, but Pfizer and others resisted the move, saying existing vaccine makers are in the best position to produce doses.
For its part, Public Citizen supports the waiver to allow multiple manufacturers to start churning out vaccines.
Pfizer expects to produce 3 billion COVID-19 shots in 2021 and 4 billion in 2022. All of those doses mean big sales and profits for the drugmaker. In a new analysis seen by the Financial Times, analytics group Airfinity says it expects Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine sales to reach $54.5 billion in 2022. In 2021, the company expects to generate more than $33 billion in coronavirus shot sales.