For some people, no good deed deserves to be rewarded – at least not by making a profit, which they treat as if it were a dirty word. Even saving millions of lives, as pharmaceutical companies have undoubtedly done by delivering safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to market in record time, is no excuse for earning a return on investment.
Take the headline of a recent New York Times article, which thunders, “Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits from Covid Vaccine.” The article insists, while citing revenue and profit projections and CEO earnings, that “Pfizer has publicly promised to run its company not solely for the enrichment of shareholders, but for the betterment of society.” The implication being that producing a vaccine is somehow not already a massive benefit to society.
As influential blogger and journalist Matthew Yglesias quipped on Twitter in response to the Times headline, “What would you say the consumer surplus is here? Trillions?” In other words, the lives saved, the sickness and long-term health complications avoided, and the peace of mind gained are well worth the $20 or $30 Pfizer is getting per dose.