Investors Ask Pharmas to Link CEO Pay to Fair Global COVID-19 Vaccine Access

REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Several institutional investors with assets under management of over $3.5 trillion urged pharmaceutical companies to link executives’ pay to making COVID-19 vaccines available worldwide on Thursday.

Most citizens in wealthy nations are vaccinated and many are now receiving booster shots, but vaccination rates on the African continent average around 10%.

In order to end the “acute phase” of the pandemic, the World Health Organization has set a goal of 70% vaccination rates by July 2022. 

In a letter dated January 4, 65 asset managers, pension funds, and insurance companies sent them to Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and AstraZeneca.

The letter asks them to adopt a WHO roadmap for achieving equitable vaccine access and tie it to management pay “in a meaningful, material, measurable and transparent way”.

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The worldwide supply of vaccines has been delayed by production problems, hoarding by governments of rich countries, and export restrictions.

A key focus of the investor group is to get more countries involved in international vaccine programs, as well as to license and share technology so countries can manufacture vaccines locally.

“It should make business sense for a vaccine manufacturer to aim to vaccinate the whole world,” said Frank Wagemans of Achmea Investment Management, one of the backers of the initiative with $225 billion in assets under management.

Other participating investors include Nomura, Investec, Boston Common Asset Management, Candriam, GAM, Aegon and PGGM.

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Pfizer and Moderna have previously said they are committed to making doses available to poorer nations at relatively low prices.

In response, Johnson & Johnson said 60% of its vaccine had been shipped to low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, and the company is in talks with Aspen Pharmacare about producing vaccines in South Africa.

An AstraZeneca spokesperson said the company distributes its products to low-income and middle-income countries without any profit in these countries.

Peter Singer, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General of the WHO, said the investor initiative was “extremely welcome.”

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