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Pfizer’s COVID vaccine has revived its sagging reputation as a Big Pharma brand

February 2, 2022, 3:30 PM UTC

Pfizer has had a world-changing run after a long absence. By partnering with BioNTech on a groundbreaking COVID-19 vaccine, steering it through clinical trials at a record pace, and producing billions of doses amid massive need, World’s Most Admired Company No. 4 Pfizer earned peers’ rapturous admiration. That recognition is particularly striking because it’s been absent lately: The pharma mainstay hasn’t appeared on this list since 2006. Over a bumpy 15-year stretch, Pfizer’s new-drug pipeline dwindled, and an attempt to relocate to tax-friendly Ireland triggered angry political blowback. In engineering a historic medical victory, CEO Albert Bourla has rebalanced the reputational scales. (The vaccine has also been a financial triumph: Pfizer’s revenue is expected to double in 2021, to $82 billion.) 

Big Tech: What keeps it atop the polls
Massive scale helps explain why Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft own the Most Admired podium: Combined, they’re on track to generate more than $1 trillion in revenue this fiscal year. But insider polling shows that each wins respect for different strengths. Apple’s meticulously designed devices earn it top marks for product quality. Amazon scores highest of the three for innovation, as befits a pioneer in fields as diverse as video streaming and the enterprise cloud. And Microsoft scores highest for quality of management—a tribute to Satya Nadella, whom poll respondents voted the most underrated CEO for the sixth straight year.

From left: Karen Lynch, CVS; Carol Tomé, UPS; Thasunda Brown Duckett, TIAA; Julie Sweet, Accenture.
Jeffery Salter—Redux Pictures; Joe Scarnici—Getty Images; Courtesy of Accenture; Courtesy of UPS

Women CEOs: A welcome change in the corner office
We’re sorry to say that the Most Admired Companies list reflects the lack of gender diversity among big-company CEOs: About 6.6% of the top finishers are led by women, compared with 8.4% for the Fortune 500. But in a sign of recent progress, the women CEOs on the list each claimed the top job in the past three years, and each is the first woman to lead her company. They include Accenture’s Julie Sweet (who became CEO in September 2019); Carol Tomé of UPS (June 2020); Karen Lynch of CVS Health (February 2021); and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA (May 2021). All four rank in the top 10 of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list; Lynch is No. 1.

A version of this article appears in the February/March issue of Fortune with the headline, “Reputation matters: More about the new faces and longtime winners in our annual ranking.”

See Fortune‘s full 2022 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.