COVID-19 Tech Transfer: A 2022 Proxy Book Member Profile

Diana Kearney, Legal and Shareholder Advocacy Advisor -- Oxfam America

Oxfam and co-filers have filed proposals at Moderna and Pfizer, asking the companies to study the feasibility of transferring COVID-19 vaccine technology and know-how to manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The companies’ refusal to transfer mRNA technology is prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic. This not only preordains the unnecessary death and suffering of millions, but creates significant risk for investors.

First, hoarding mRNA technology harms any investor with a diversified portfolio. Leaving vast swathes of the population unvaccinated breathes life into the pandemic, fueling the emergence of variants and dragging down financial markets. Investors with diverse holdings will suffer from the continued economic havoc wrought by Pfizer’s and Moderna’s refusal to transfer technology.

Second, the reputational risk is clear: the New York Times has published disparaging headlines like “Moderna, Racing for Profits, Keeps Vaccine Out of Reach of Poor” while countless outlets have accused Pfizer of “bullying” poor states into grossly unfair contract terms. In addition to the slew of negative press, the companies’ willingness to exploit the pandemic has been rebuked by members of Congress. Such widespread condemnation has serious implications for the companies’ long-term shareholders.

Finally, Moderna and Pfizer are squandering their market lead: refusing to license mRNA technology to the 100+ manufacturers in LMICs that could produce the vaccine incentivizes manufacturers to develop their own mRNA technology. Rather than sharing technology in ways that guarantee they remain industry leaders in 2-3 years, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s refusal to license tech encourages competitors to emerge. This shortsightedness comes at the expense of long-term investors.

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