Pfizer’s £2 billion NHS rip-off could pay for nurses’ pay rise SIX TIMES over

Pfizer’s £2 billion NHS rip-off could pay for nurses’ pay rise SIX TIMES over

Date: 23 November 2021
Campaigns: Pharma

Pfizer has extracted nearly £2 billion in profits from the NHS for its vaccine, more than six times the total amount the government has spent on a pay rise for nurses who have worked through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Campaigners have slammed the government for reinforcing a system of intellectual property rules that allows companies like Pfizer to use a publicly-funded vaccine to siphon off money needed to pay frontline staff.

The UK is one of a handful of governments blocking international efforts to ramp up vaccine production and drive down drug prices by waiving intellectual property rules on coronavirus vaccines and treatments for the remainder of the pandemic.

The NHS has paid £2.57 billion to Pfizer for 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, with a £1.903 billion mark-up above production cost.

The eye-watering profit margin is more than six times what ministers have allowed NHS England to spend on pay rises for nurses this year, which has totalled just £302 million.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received £2.5 billion in public funding, mostly from the German and American governments, but the company has been allowed to demand huge profits from healthcare systems around the world.

Pfizer’s vaccine costs just £4.94 to produce, but it has charged the NHS £18 a dose for the first 100 million purchased and £22 a dose for the next 35 million, totalling £2.57 billion.

At £4.94 per dose, the 135 million doses sold to the NHS will have cost Pfizer £666.9 million, meaning the company has charged the NHS a £1.903 billion mark-up.

Despite demands from their union of a 12.5% pay rise, the government would only grant a 3% rise to nurses who have worked in gruelling conditions throughout the pandemic. After inflation, the £1,000.52 annual increase is effectively a pay cut.

The surplus paid to Pfizer could fund the 12.5% rise demanded by unions which would cost £1.26 billion, 1.5 times over.

Campaigners are calling on the government to break Pfizer’s monopoly on the publicly-funded vaccine, to increase global access to Covid-19 vaccinations and save the NHS huge sums of money, which can be reinvested in frontline staff.

It comes ahead of the World Trade Organisation’s ministerial conference, where governments will discuss waiving intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, which would allow generic manufacturers to produce the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a lower price.

More than 130 countries including the United States support a waiver, which was first proposed by India and South Africa last October. But the British and German governments have blocked progress so far.

Tim Bierley, pharma campaigner at Global Justice Now said:

“Pfizer presents itself as the saviour of the world, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Like all of our Covid-19 vaccines, the Pfizer-BioNTech jab was developed with huge public funding. It should belong to all of us, not used to rip off the NHS.

“Throughout this pandemic, the government’s priorities have been all wrong. Instead of valuing the key workers who have got us through it, or ensuring everyone has access to lifesaving vaccines and treatments, they’ve helped big businesses profit from a crisis.

“At the World Trade Organisation next month, the government has a choice to make. They can stand with our NHS and demand the right to healthcare for all, or they can side with Pfizer and other big business profiteers who only want to extract a profit from the public purse.”


The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received an estimated £2.5 billion in public funding:

Pfizer is charging the African Union $6.75 (est. £4.94), which is believed to be cost price:

NHS England now employs 301,000 nurses, according to the Department for Health and Social care:

The UK has bought Pfizer’s vaccine for £18 a dose for the first 100 million purchased and £22 a dose for the next 35 million:

Media contact

Joe Karp-Sawey, Media Manager, Global Justice Now
Tel/WhatsApp/Signal: 07428985985
[email protected]

Photo: Marco Verch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)