Leave it to the Brits to highlight all the flaws inherent in the US-led effort to develop (and reap immense profits from) COVID vaccines while the WTO holds the line on denying the sharing of IP rights to allow developing nations to produce their own jabs.
The UK's Channel 4 has produced a new documentary that exposes Pfizer's efforts to undermine its rivals, including AstraZeneca, which developed a jab in the UK with help from Oxford University. And teasers from this new doc, released late Monday, purports to show that Pfizer criticized AZ in a presentation where the company said the rival jab was potentially dangerous.
Furthermore, the speakers claimed AZ's jab could cause cancer and was not safe for immunosuppressed patients.
The presentation in question was delivered in Canada sometime last year, although it's unclear whether it was a one-off event or whether the speaker had made the claim multiple times. The program, entitled "Vaccine Wars: The Truth About Pfizer", will air in its entirety on Friday.
Pfizer responded to the claims made in the documentary by insisting that the presentation cited therein had been "wrongly attributed" to Pfizer, and that it actually had been made by a third party.
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Pfizer insisted that it's priority "has always been getting high-quality, well-tolerated and effective vaccines..."
"We refute any suggestion that Pfizer has sought to undermine others’ scientific endeavors," a company spokesman told the Daily Mail.
"Our priority has always been getting high-quality, well-tolerated and effective vaccines to patients all over the world as quickly as possible and to help put an end to this deadly pandemic."
The documentary also purports to show that Pfizer is price gouging governments and insurers by estimating the cost of producing a single jab is just 76 pence ($1.02). The vaccines are then sold for 20x that, or roughly $20 a dose (and Pfizer hopes to raise prices in the coming months, particularly if it's forced to reformulate its vaccines for omicron).
Responding to this claim, Pfizer insisted that the $1.02 figure is "grossly inaccurate", and that the cost estimate didn't factor in the resources expended during research and development.
Pfizer seems to be embracing the strategy of 'deny, deny, deny', and it's not hard to see why. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford vaccine group that developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, responded to the claims in the presentation, and warned about the dangers of spreading vaccine "misinformation."
"There is huge risks of misinformation, because anything that makes people hesitate about being vaccinated can risk their lives," the professor said.
"It can undermine and impact on decisions that people make about their own health, but also create uncertainty for policymakers."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Pfizer said the company had provided funds to a third-party agency with an independent scientific committee to produce an educational program about vaccines in Canada following the approval of the company's jab in the country. Pfizer hired the firm following "numerous requests" from Canadian health professionals.
Fortunately for Pfizer, its deal to supply jabs to the UK stipulates that it can't be sued for anything relating to COVID. Any disputes must be resolved in secret arbitration.
As for the Channel 4 documentary, it airs 1930 London Time on Friday.