A win for vaccine equity!

It happened.

Our movement for vaccine equity saw a huge win when the Biden Administration announced, on May 5, that it would support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement for COVID-19 vaccines at the WTO. It means that the US and other governments–usually beholden to pharmaceutical corporation profit motives–are seeing the need for global solidarity and action to end the unjust suffering and death brought on by nationalistic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This incredible breakthrough has come with the organizing and advocacy of a coalition of organizations across the globe. Free the Vaccine for COVID-19, through UAEM and C4AA, brought together artists, access to medicines advocates, and really just anybody who saw early on the need to raise the alarm that access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics would be hindered by corporate greed and patent monopolies.

Free the Vaccine campaign project managers reflected on how it feels and what it means to them to see this their efforts as part of this collective and global coalition have moved needle toward vaccine equity at the highest levels:

The [rally for vaccine access in Washington, DC] was amazing and almost surreal in how the news [of the Administration’s decision] was announced in the middle of our rally. People were cheering and hugging there was a lot of emotion in the atmosphere. In the context of Free the Vaccine, it was really cool to be ahead of the curve and see the power we have in our advocacy. Definitely, the moment was pushed by events happening in India, but we won something that was as a result of our actions all the calls we made, rallies we held, etc. We supported [a TRIPS waiver] before it was cool, before a lot of government officials threw their support behind it, and that feels good. We were always on the right side of history and shows that we fight the good fight!!!

Tayyiaba Farooq

It’s so amazing and surreal to see our work making a difference and impacting lives on a global scale in real-time. This work can be challenging since big wins don’t come around too often and you don’t know how close you are until you get there, but when you do get there and get that win it feels so amazing to know that your message is being seen and heard. It’s gratifying that our efforts are making an impact.

Maanasa Gurram

Hearing the news, it almost felt like someone was playing a joke on us! We’ve been working towards a breakthrough like this for months, and even before the waiver was proposed we were wishing for something like it – something ground-breaking enough to make the difference needed. This is a GIGANTIC leap forward in the right direction. Finally the goal we’ve been striving for feels like a very real possibility – vaccine equity’.

Poppy Hosford

I’ve been so overwhelmed and grateful in the BEST way since the historic moment yesterday afternoon. It feels so surreal that our advocacy efforts from the past three seasons/past year has paid off! I just hope the bureaucratic rigamarole doesn’t take too long and that this will pave the way for universities like my own, UCLA, to sign onto the OCP/C-TAP and bring about a more equitable end to the pandemic in a quicker manner!


Avani Reddy

When I heard the news I was shocked that this actually happened, but I also felt like I was sharing in the success of the entire campaign. As part of the [campaign targeting universities] I felt kind of less responsible as I’m also in Canada, but it was such a massive success that it felt like the victory flowed throughout the entire campaign and each individual contributed to it.

Declan Sakuls

In general, when I get involved in activism I never expect to see results immediately – in fact, I don’t expect to see results on the order of systemic change at all, and simply hope that my contributions will add on to a collective rhetoric in some small, abstract way. So hearing about the Biden-Harris administration’s decision to support the TRIPS waiver while in front of the Capitol, wearing a Care Bear costume, and waving a banner demanding that they do just that was, in a word, surreal. I think it’s very rare to be able to see tangible policy change at the moment it’s happening, so it was both incredibly exciting and incredibly humbling to be a part of the rally yesterday and to see our vision coming to life in real time.

Defne Yorgancioglu

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