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ANALYSIS: Pfizer Is Lobbying The Government For Third Vaccine Doses, And It Could Make Them Billions

(Photo by MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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Pfizer has helped pave the path for Americans to get a third booster dose of its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, and the company stands to rake in billions in additional profit if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a third dose.

The Delta variant has changed how government officials and medical experts view the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite weak evidence for doing so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has backtracked on its mask guidance, and sensationalist headlines from corporate media are warning that even the vaccinated can spread the virus as easily as the unvaccinated.

Pfizer has stepped in and begun to make the case that this new Delta wave can be stemmed with a booster shot. While breakthrough infections have been relatively infrequent, and hospitalizations and deaths within the vaccinated population have been exceptionally rare, there is clinical data suggesting that vaccine efficacy is not as high in immunocompromised or elderly populations, and that a booster shot may be enough to bridge that gap.

As a result, some governments and health experts, including high-ranking Pfizer employees, are suggesting that those groups get a third dose of their vaccine. Trump-era FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has been a leading voice in favor of booster shots. Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, said as early as April that it would be “likely” that people need an additional dose after becoming fully vaccinated.

In late July, Israel became the first country in the world to approve a booster shot for those aged 60 and over. In the meantime, some Americans have gone around the rules to covertly secure themselves a third dose despite it not being approved yet. (RELATED: Will You Need A Third Vaccine Dose To Be Fully Protected From COVID-19?)

Despite the recommendations of Gottlieb, Bourla and some other medical professionals, as well as Israel’s approval, American regulators remain skeptical. Thus far, most of the leading voices in the U.S. government like National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky have downplayed the potential need for a booster shot.

Still, scientists within the CDC have been meeting to discuss the possibility of approving and recommending a third dose in recent weeks, and it’s widely expected that a booster shot recommendation will be coming soon alongside a full authorization of the currently available COVID-19 vaccines, which are currently under Emergency Use Authorization.

Domestic regulators aren’t the only ones showing some skepticism of boosters. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has sharply condemned pushes to bring third doses to rich countries, saying focus should instead be on vaccinating the developing world first.

“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant,” Tedros said. “But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it, while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected.”

Being able to distribute a third dose of vaccine to the developed world would be a big financial booster for Pfizer and its mRNA rival Moderna. The latter company has begun lobbying for the additional jab as well, and its stock price shot up Monday when it received approval in Australia and Switzerland alongside speculation that a third dose could be approved soon.

Pfizer expects to sell almost $34 billion in COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, and that’s not accounting for the jump that could occur if boosters are approved. One analyst wrote to investors that the number could end up being much higher in reality, as much as $43 billion, according to Axios.

The company has already raked in $10.8 billion this year from its vaccines, while German partner BioNTech has reported 7.3 billion Euros of revenue. Moderna, meanwhile, is projecting $20 billion in sales by the end of the year. (RELATED: How Much Did The Lockdowns Actually Cost America?)

The two firms could potentially make more money by selling boosters to the Western world than by ensuring that poorer nations in Africa, Latin America and Asia get their first crack at the vaccine. The pricing for Pfizer’s vaccine in Africa has reportedly been as low as $6.75 per dose. By comparison, Israel reportedly paid $28 per dose for some of the vaccine.

Recently, both companies increased their prices for the European Union. Pfizer’s price rose from 15.50 Euros to 19.5 Euros ($18.40 to $23.15), and Moderna’s price went up to $25.50 from about $22.55, according to Reuters. (RELATED: ANALYSIS: Meet The 9 Elites Who Became Billionaires Off COVID-19 Vaccines)

The pandemic has resulted in a historic transfer of wealth from the working class to the elite, with new billionaires being minted and share prices for investors jumping through the roof. Big pharma has certainly gotten its piece of the pie, and it looks like they may be coming back for seconds in the near future.