Multiple factors explain the inequitable nature of Pfizer’s vaccine distribution.
The shot, which must be stored and transported at very low temperatures, is less practical for hard-to-reach parts of the world than other shots, like those from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, that can simply be refrigerated. Some poor countries were initially not hit hard by the virus, and so their governments had less urgency to place orders for the Pfizer vaccine, to the extent that they could afford to pay for the shots.
“Not everyone was interested in the vaccine or prepared to take steps; thus, conversations continue, including working with Covax beyond their initial order of 40 million doses,” said Ms. Castillo, the Pfizer spokeswoman.
In India, where the virus is raging out of control, Pfizer’s vaccine is not being used. The company applied for emergency authorization there but withdrew the application in February because India’s drug regulator was not willing to waive a requirement that it run a local clinical trial. At the time, India’s coronavirus case numbers were manageable and vaccines being made locally were thought to be sufficient.
Pfizer and India’s government have since resumed talks. On Monday, Mr. Bourla said the company would donate more than $70 million worth of medicine to India and is trying to fast-track the vaccine authorization.
Pfizer has publicly promised to run its company not solely for the enrichment of shareholders, but for the betterment of society.
Mr. Bourla, who earned $21 million last year, was among the 181 heads of major companies who signed a Business Roundtable pledge in 2019 to focus on serving an array of “stakeholders,” including workers, suppliers and local communities — not only investors.
The financial figures that Pfizer reported on Tuesday understate how much money the vaccine is generating. Pfizer splits its vaccine revenue with BioNTech, which will report its own first-quarter results next week. BioNTech said in March that it had locked in revenue of nearly 10 billion euros, or about $11.8 billion, based on vaccine orders at the time.