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Shareholder resolutions demand that Pfizer, Moderna, Merck, Johnson & Johnson address unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines


In shareholder resolutions filed this week, Oxfam America called on large pharmaceutical corporations to improve equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines so that everyone, everywhere can be protected against the coronavirus.

Oxfam’s resolutions filed with Pfizer and Moderna urge the corporations to study the feasibility of transferring their mRNA vaccine intellectual property and technical know-how to ensure timely, reliable access to lifesaving vaccines. Similar resolutions filed last year received nearly 30% of the independent shareholder vote, indicating growing concern from investors about the financial impact of inequitable distribution of these technologies.

“While many of us want to put COVID behind us, the reality is that so many people around the world still don’t have access to the COVID vaccines and medicines they need, which continues to cause uncertainty in our economies and investors’ portfolios, not to mention lives lost”, said Jennifer Reid, Senior Advisor, Health and Vaccine Equity at Oxfam America. “We urge Pfizer and Moderna to move quickly to study how they could share their technologies to give countries the tools they are asking for to sustainably safeguard people’s health and the global economy.”

In different resolutions filed with Johnson and Johnson and Merck, Oxfam is seeking transparency on how significant public funding from US taxpayers that the two companies received – billions for Johnson and Johnson, and millions for Merck – have factored into pricing and access decisions. Similar resolutions last year received more than a third of the vote.

“Despite the billions of US taxpayer dollars invested in these technologies, despite the billions of profits made so far, and despite so many lives that could have been saved, these companies have continued to prioritize their monopolies and short-term profits at the expense of many lives, livelihoods, and the sustainability of investors’ portfolios,” continued Reid.

Together with the People’s Vaccine Alliance, Oxfam has highlighted the dramatic impact unequal access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines has had around the world. With more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines last year, for example, experts estimate at least 1.3 million more lives could have been saved. Of course, the impacts do not stop at lives lost; livelihoods, global supply chains, and economies have been dramatically impacted too at an estimated cost to the global economy of $12.5 trillion through 2024. Companies must do their part to put an end to continuing inequities and ensure that such deadly and disruptive disparities never happen again.

“Pharmaceutical companies have been given the free rein to set their own monopolies, their own prices, and their own profits,” said Maaza Seyoum with the People’s Vaccine Alliance. “The impact on poor countries has been devastating, more so than in rich countries, in terms of both health and economic inequities. When will it be enough?”


Notes to the editor:

Last year’s Oxfam resolution before Moderna shareholders received 24% of the nominal vote, or 29% of the independent vote factoring in the 17% of the vote share owned by the company's directors and senior executives. The resolution before Pfizer shareholders garnered 27% of the vote. The resolution before J&J shareholders received 34% of the vote, and the one before Merck received 36%.

Experts estimate at least 1.3 million more lives could have been saved by increased vaccine access.

The IMF estimated the pandemic will cost the global economy $12.5 trillion through 2024 and pointed to inequities in COVID access in their analysis earlier this year.

According to the World Bank earlier this year: “The COVID-19 pandemic increased global income inequality, partly undoing two decades of progress in lowering inequality and disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups and [emerging markets and developing economies], where income inequality is considerably higher than in advanced economies.”

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