Amsterdam — A group of institutional investors representing $3.5-trillion in assets under management, including JSE-listed Investec, on Thursday called on pharmaceutical companies to link their executives’ pay to making Covid-19 vaccines available around the globe.

While the majority of citizens of wealthy nations are vaccinated and many are now receiving booster shots, across the African continent vaccination rates average 10%. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set a target of a 70% vaccination rate in every country by July to end the “acute phase” of the pandemic.

The 65 participating asset managers, pension funds and insurance companies signed a letter reviewed by Reuters dated January 4 that was sent to the boards of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Moderna and AstraZeneca asking them to adopt a WHO road map for achieving equitable vaccine access and tying it to management pay “in a meaningful, material, measurable and transparent way”.

Vaccine deliveries worldwide have been delayed by production problems, hoarding by governments of rich countries, export restrictions and red tape.

The investor group said key points include better participation in international vaccine programmes, and licensing and sharing technology so countries can produce 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 $225bn in assets under management.

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

Pfizer, J&J and Moderna could not immediately be reached for comment. They have previously said they are committed to making doses available to poorer nations at relatively low prices. A spokesperson for AstraZeneca said the company is producing its Covid-19 vaccine for no profit and has distributed most of its supply to low- and middle-income countries.

Peter Singer, special adviser to the secretary-general of the WHO, said the investor initiative was “extremely welcome”.

Unequal vaccine distribution represents “not only a complete moral failure for the world but also a very significant economic failure and a significant drag on the world economy”, he said.

Wagemans said he believed vaccine makers will generally be receptive to the request, but the fund manager will look at how the companies put promises into action before their annual meetings. “I cannot speak for the other signatories as to how they will vote, but for Achmea management, yes, we will vote against [executive pay packages] if there’s no link made” to the WHO road map, he said.



Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.