Isn’t the pharmaceutical industry just out to make money?

Editorial Board

Editorial Board

November 26th, 2021

Editorial Board

The pharmaceutical industry makes money from producing and selling vaccines. Companies that make food, cars, and software have the same primary motivation. The same goes for taxi drivers and web designers.

As it happens, vaccines are not the most profitable products developed by the pharmaceutical sector. Medicines for patients with chronic diseases, which are taken every day, would be more profitable than a vaccine which provides a long-lasting impact.

It’s true that vaccines generate revenue for companies not because each dose is particularly expensive but because it is generally necessary to have high levels of coverage in the population.

However, spending on vaccines can bring direct savings for the public purse. Purchasing vaccines for polio, for example, can reduce the risk of having to spend heavily on medicines and rehabilitation. This has been recognised by EU health ministers who described vaccines as “the most effective and economical way of preventing infectious diseases”.


Some people are uneasy with the idea that companies could profit from selling vaccines but if new vaccines are to be developed, huge investments are required. This means finding large amounts of money and taking risks.

It’s also important to remember that the pharmaceutical sector in general is one of the most heavily-regulated industries in Europe. Production standards, safety monitoring and marketing activities are very tightly controlled by public authorities.

In any case, support for vaccination comes from a wide range of sources: the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC), national health authorities, academia, NGOs and industry.

For more information, see ‘Vaccination – 20 Objections & Responses’, produced by the Robert Koch Institute and Paul Ehrlich Institute