Omicron variant made $10 billion in a week for top Moderna and Pfizer shareholders

Omicron variant made $10 billion in a week for top Moderna and Pfizer shareholders

Date: 7 December 2021
Campaigns: Pharma

  • Moderna CEO personally made more than $800 million in week after variant announcement

  • Companies “have made more than enough money from the pandemic”, campaigners say

Big pharma executives and shareholders saw their wealth skyrocket in the week after the Omicron variant was discovered, with just eight top Pfizer and Moderna shareholders adding a combined $10.31 billion to their fortunes.

Campaigners have accused pharma executives of “making a killing from a crisis they helped to create”, blaming “grotesque” levels of vaccine inequality for creating the conditions for the Omicron variant to emerge.

They are calling on governments to support a waiver of intellectual property rules on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to allow low and middle-income countries to manufacture jabs for themselves, breaking big pharma monopolies and increasing overall supplies.

Moderna’s shares skyrocketed after the announcement and settled at $310.61/share on Wednesday 1 December, up 13.61% from $273.39/share since Wednesday 24 November, the day before the announcement. Pfizer’s shares rose by 7.41% from $50.91/share to $54.68/share.

Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, personally became more than $824m richer in the week after the announcement, with the value of his shares rising from $6,052,522,978 to $6,876,528,630. He sold off 10,000 shares for $319 each on 26 November, the day after the variant was announced, cashing out $3.19 million.

At close of business on Tuesday, Bancel’s shares had grown by $1.7 billion since the announcement, before falling after the company lost a legal dispute over patents.

Bancel has refused to share the recipe for Moderna’s vaccine with the World Health Organisation to help scale-up manufacturing of mRNA vaccines through its new hub in South Africa. WHO scientists are now trying to reverse-engineer the vaccine. His company is also waging a legal battle to erase the role of massive public funding and public scientists in developing the jab.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla made $339,236 in the week after the announcement of the variant, with his smaller portfolio rising from $4,581,035 to $4,920,270.

Institutional investors have also made a killing from the variant. Blackrock Inc’s Moderna and Pfizer shares increased by more than $2.5 billion in the week after the announcement; $1,000,553,995 from Moderna and $1,548,822,709 from Pfizer. Vanguard Group made $2.7 billion; $1,011,692,117 from Moderna and $1,733,982,482 from Pfizer.

Moderna shareholders Baillie Gifford & Co increased by $1,571,329,916; Morgan Stanley increased by $447,476,028.50 and Flagship pioneering increased by $654,365,415. Pfizer investors State Street went up $1,054,857,992 and Capital World gained $909,930,434.

Just 6% of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated, while pharmaceutical companies sell booster jabs to rich nations. The ten Southern African countries on the UK’s travel red list, where it is suspected that Omicron may have emerged, have a combined vaccination rate of just 14% (Our World in Data).

Amnesty International has accused pharmaceutical companies of “fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis” by refusing to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology. Human rights lawyers are eyeing legal action against governments who have blocked an intellectual property waiver and nursing unions have filed a complaint with the UN.

For more than a year, South Africa has led calls from low and middle-income countries to temporarily waive intellectual property rights on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, to allow wider manufacturing and more equitable access to medical technologies.

A waiver is supported by the WHO and the governments of most countries, including the United States, but the UK and EU, driven by Germany, have blocked the measure from progressing at the World Trade Organisation.

In May of 2020, the WHO set up its Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a programme to facilitate the transfer of vaccine technology and know-how to accredited manufacturers. But big pharmaceutical companies have boycotted the scheme, which Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla dismissed as “nonsense”.

Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now, said:

“Pharmaceutical companies knew that grotesque levels of vaccine inequality would create prime conditions for new variants to emerge. They let Covid-19 spread unabated in low and middle-income countries. And now the same pharma execs and shareholders are making a killing from a crisis they helped to create. It’s utterly obscene.

“At every turn, these companies have obstructed efforts to more equitably distribute vaccines around the world. They have made more than enough money from the pandemic, selling two of the most lucrative drugs in history. It’s time to hand over the recipe for these essential medicines to the WHO so we can finally end this pandemic.

“It’s long past time for the UK and the EU to stand on the side of global health instead of vaccine billionaires – and get behind an intellectual property waiver on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments”


Pfizer and Moderna’s Omicron rich list

Moderna Number of shares Total shares value 24 November (USD) Total shares value 1 December  (USD) Change (USD)
Stephane Bancel 22,138,787 6,052,522,977.93 6,876,528,630.07 824,005,652.14
Vanguard Group 27,181,411 7,431,125,953.29 8,442,818,070.71 1,011,692,117.42
Baillie Gifford & Co 42,217,354 11,541,802,410.06 13,113,132,325.94 1,571,329,915.88
Blackrock Inc 26,882,160 7,349,313,722.40 8,349,867,717.60 1,000,553,995.20
Flagship pioneering 17,581,016 4,806,473,964.24 5,460,839,379.76 654,365,415.52
TOTAL Moderna 5,061,947,096.16
Albert Bourla 89,983.00 4,581,034.53 4,920,270.44 339,235.91
Vanguard group inc 459,942,303.00 23,415,662,645.73 25,149,645,128.04 1,733,982,482.31
Blackrock Inc 410,828,305.00 20,915,269,007.55 22,464,091,717.40 1,548,822,709.85
State street corp 279,803,181.00 14,244,779,944.71 15,299,637,937.08 1,054,857,992.37
Capital World investors 241,360,858.00 12,287,681,280.78 13,197,611,715.44 909,930,434.66
TOTAL Pfizer 5,247,932,855.10
TOTAL Moderna and Pfizer 10,309,879,951.26

Full data:

Photos: Juan Rodriguez Pazos/Shutterstock and Flowersandtraveling/Shutterstock