Open letter to the Nobel Prize Committee

Dear Nobel Prize Committees,

We write to you in great respect of the role the Nobel Prize plays in recognizing exceptional achievement for humanity. We write to thank you for the exceptional role you play for the world. And we write to you in pain. We are Covid-19 survivors. We are nurses and health workers, who have given every ounce of our being to save lives from this deadly virus. Too many of our co-workers died saving others. We are individuals who have lost loved ones to Covid-19. We come together from 40 countries across the world.

We are aware that there are some calls for Dr. Özlem Türeci and Prof. Uğur Şahin, the founders of the pharmaceutical corporation BioNTech, to be nominated and awarded for Nobel Prizes.

Prof. Şahin and Dr. Türeci have provided exceptional leadership in creating a Covid-19 mRNA vaccine that is as effective as any on the planet, with the support of German and European public funds.

And yet it profoundly distresses us that they are even being considered for any Nobel Prize. As we write today, the world is in an extraordinary crisis. 0.3% of Covid-19 vaccines have gone to low-income countries. Some three million more lives could be lost this year to people who do not have access to a Covid-19 vaccine. These could be our co-workers; our parents; it could be us.

Despite the great scientific achievement of BioNTech, Prof. Şahin and Dr. Türeci have in fact rejected efforts that would allow for billions more people to benefit from the science they have created.

Prof. Şahin andDr. Türeci have refused to share their Covid-19 vaccine recipes with the World Health Organization (WHO) that would, ensuring quality control and regulatory oversight, allow for qualified manufacturers worldwide to make the vaccine. And they have undermined efforts by over 100 countries led by South Africa and India to lift intellectual property rules on Covid-19 vaccines that started precisely one year ago.

That is far from what, as Alfred Nobel described, those who “have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind”. Faced with the chance to save millions of lives with their life-saving science, Prof. Şahin and Dr. Türeci have instead chosen to protect their monopoly to create billions of dollars in profits. They prioritized their profitable partnership with Pfizer, but we expected far better from them.

That is why it would be unconscionable that they be awarded any Nobel Prize. We people in poorer countries from Africa, Latin America and Asia put out a desperate outreached hand to Prof. Şahin and Dr. Türeci, asking they help save our lives –and instead they have turned their back to us.

We believe this can still change. Our message to Prof. Sahin and Dr. Türeci to whom we also share this letter, is a simple one:we have nothing but respect for your scientific achievement. But we have nothing except despair for your subsequent failure to share that science with the world.’

Were you to agree to share your science through the WHO mRNA hub in South Africa, and its Covid-19 Technology Access pool, and to support a comprehensive waiver of intellectual property rules, we will be the first to support your nomination for a Nobel Prize: as the individuals who used their extraordinary power to save millions of lives in every country in the world at this time of unprecedented human crisis.

In sincerity and solidarity,


  1. Zulaikha Rafiq, COVID-19 Survivor, Afghanistan



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