October 21, 2021 | Access to Medicines


On Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s Birthday, Medical Students and Activists from Health GAP, Rise and Resist, CPD Action and More Protest at His Home to Demand Equitable Global Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

Jessica Bassett (Health GAP): +1 347-378-5583| jessica@healthgap.org

Scarsdale, NY, October 21, 2021 (Globe Newswire) – On Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s birthday, medical students and activists held a mock celebration by placing a faux “Pfizer graveyard” outside Bourla’s home to denounce his role in blocking access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines for billions of people in low- and middle-income countries. While COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in wealthy countries, only nine African countries met a target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations by the end of September. Just four percent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated due to ongoing supply shortages. 


The activists staged a mock funeral outside Bourla’s home, constructing a “Pfizer graveyard,” and holding signs reading, “Bourla’s birthday: no time to celebrate,” and “5+ million dead couldn’t make it.” Revelations about Pfizer’s deadly profiteering were published earlier this week.  


“It might be Albert Bourla’s birthday today, but it’s no time to celebrate when millions of people around the world are dying due to Pfizer’s obstruction of global access to life-saving COVID-19 vaccines,” said Emily Sanderson, Senior Coordinator, Grassroots Advocacy for Health GAP. “There is blood on Albert Bourla’s hands. How many more have to die in service to Pfizer’s profiteering?”


“Pfizer, the world’s largest and most profitable drug corporation, has an inordinate amount of power when it comes to international trade rules for global pharmaceutical manufacture and distribution, which they continually assert to block widespread generic production of COVID-19 vaccines to protect their pandemic profiteering. In the meantime, tens of thousands of people in the Global South unnecessarily die every day waiting for vaccines,” said Mark Hannay, a member of Rise and Resist. “As the company’s CEO Albert Bourla marks his 60th birthday, President Biden and world leaders must stand up to Bourla and other Big Pharma CEOs and temporarily waive international intellectual property rules so that vaccines can be immediately mass produced to end the COVID-19 pandemic as fast as possible.”


Activists argued that Pfizer is complicit in blocking access to life-saving vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, even as five people die of COVID-19 every minute worldwide. The company has fought against the TRIPS waiver, a year-old proposal at the World Trade Organization that would break down intellectual property rights barriers to expanding vaccine manufacturing around the world. Pfizer has also enabled rich-country hoarding of vaccine doses, choosing to do business with wealthy nations willing to pay top-dollar instead of selling to countries where vaccine access has been extremely limited.


Activists demanded that Bourla drop Pfizer’s opposition to the TRIPS waiver and instead engage in deep technology transfer to expand vaccine manufacturing in the Global South. They also demanded Pfizer use its power to reorder the queue for COVID-19 vaccines to fulfill orders from low-income countries ahead of those for wealthy countries, which have had access to enough doses to vaccinate their populations many times over.


The protest comes on the heels of a damning new report released by Public Citizen detailing the ways Pfizer has accumulated power and wielded it to silence world governments in vaccine negotiations. The report notes that Pfizer has even secured an intellectual property waiver for itself, despite its opposition to similar waivers that would expand global vaccine supply.


Ben Levenson, Deputy Director Justice is Global, a special project of People’s Action, said: “Albert Bourla’s decision to strong-arm low- and middle-income countries and prioritize enriching himself and his company at the expense of preventing tremendous suffering in the Global South is the single biggest thing standing in the way of us ending the pandemic everywhere. We’re here to demonstrate to our leaders that he is no innovator and no hero, but a war profiteer who is responsible for countless deaths. We demand that Albert Bourla stop restricting access to life-saving treatments and that our leaders enact a real plan to vaccinate the world.”


This is the third time activists have demanded global access to COVID-19 vaccines at the doorsteps of key duty-bearers. Last month, activists delivered twelve-foot tall piles of artificial human bones representing millions of global COVID deaths and rallied outside the homes of Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel and White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain demanding they use their power to dramatically scale up global supply of COVID-19 vaccines.


Vinay Krishnan, National Field Organizer, CPD Action, said: “Today is Albert Bourla’s birthday, so we decided to pay him a house visit. As he celebrates this day and the billions he’s raked in due to pharma greed, we’re thinking of the millions of people across the globe who won’t be celebrating any more birthdays. Of all the lives lost because Pfizer, Moderna, and yes, President Biden, refuse to take action to end vaccine apartheid. We need to put people over profits and take global action to end this global crisis.”