Today in the News: The Pfizer Vaccine

Today, global media outlets have been sharing news from the developers of one vaccine candidate, Pfizer and BioNTech. The world has had its eyes on the vaccine, which has already been tested on 43,500 people in six countries with no reported safety concerns, for a few months now.

This week, it was reported that the vaccine offers 90% protection. While this is sufficient to be optimistic, the data reported is not the final analysis. According to BBC, the precise effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine can change as more results are analyzed. The vaccine has yet to be approved by the FDA and other agencies, and the information on its safety and efficacy is not final.

With talk about the vaccine spreading through the media today, one may ask themselves: when will I get the vaccine? Pfizer and BioNTech report that they can supply 50 million doses by the end of this year, and 1.3 billion by the end of 2021. Given the fact that each person needs 2 doses for the vaccine to be effective, these numbers could potentially mean 25 million doses in 2020 and 650 million doses by the end of 2021. The vaccine also possesses logistical challenges, such as the need to store it at cold temperatures that require special refrigeration and transport. No plans for vaccine allocation have been finalized on the national level, although it is speculated that healthcare workers and first responders will be the first to receive a vaccine, once approved. Read more from ABC News here.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), noted that there is cause to be optimistic. In an interview with STAT News, Dr. Fauci remarked that all the vaccines developed by major manufactures working with Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s effort to quickly bring a vaccine to market, target the same protein that the Pfizer vaccine does. Thus, other vaccines may roll out positive news in the upcoming months as well! Read the full article on STATS News here.


Gates Foundation and COVID-19: What’s Going On?

A recent report published by Health Policy Watch explored the role of the Gates Foundation, a huge superpower and decision-maker when it comes to the research and development (R&D) of several health technologies, in the COVID-19 pandemic.

While their actions may appear commendable on the surface level, Health Policy Watch explored the ways that the Gates foundation is contributing to trends and actions that have reinforced systemic problems, several of which have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

From a general lack of transparency, to the defense of intellectual property rights, to their relationship(s) with large pharmaceutical companies, the Gates Foundation has been complicit in several problems that have plagued the industry for decades. Read more from Health Policy Watch here.

Access Champions News

Creative Actions for a People’s Vaccine

This week, our participants at Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 have continued to share their creativity with the world. Keep reading for some highlights from different groups who are working to convince universities around the world to support access to the COVID-19 vaccine!

1. Brittany Herrick took a photo of herself at Dr. Jonas Salk’s grave. Dr. Salk is known for creating the Polio vaccine, which he refused to patent on the grounds that the patent belongs to the people. His refusal to profit from the vaccine saved thousands and thousands of lives. Brittany and her team used Photoshop to send the message that Dr. Salk’s philosophy must be applied to the COVID-19 vaccine as well:

2. Our participants in London have been working hard to contact researchers at Imperial University working on COVID-19 research. To add a personal touch, they made a mask for their mascot which had more information on C-TAP, the COVID-19 technology access pool:


3. One group of participants re-enacted a fictional conversation between COVID-19, a concerned person, a university, Big Pharma, and the Plague Doctor:

Hawks Action

And many more! With the 2020 U.S. general election capturing the attention of hundreds of millions of individuals around the world, we must not forget that our organizing work must continue throughout and beyond this election, regardless of the outcome. We must continue to fight for access to a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine – as our participants have continued to do.


The Launch & Scale Speedometer

A new effort by the Duke Global Health Innovation Effort strives to map COVID-19 vaccine pre-purchases around the world.

The tool, called the Launch&Scale Speedometer, showed that high-income countries are cultivating deals that leave out low-income countries, hindering efforts for equitable global allocation. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that based on the report from Duke, high income countries have already purchased 3.8 billion doses of the vaccine, with an option for 5 billion more. People in low-income countries may not be able to access the vaccine until 2024.

At Free the Vaccine for COVID-19, we argue that vaccine nationalism, this process of high-income countries hoarding large supplies of the vaccine, will only prolong the pandemic. Efforts to ensure that the vaccine supply can reach low-income countries are increasingly crucial. The report highlights the importance of global alliances such as COVAX, a WHO effort that would help provide vaccine supplies to a large majority of the world’s population. Make sure to check out more from the tracker here!


A Stop Motion for a Free Vaccine

Check out the work of our Season 2 Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 participants from Australia in the following video!


Transparency and the Vaccine

Last week, the U.S. government finally released the contract it made with Moderna in August for vaccine manufacturing and distribution. As with most documents of public interest released by this administration, the contract is heavily redacted.

Moderna Therapeutics holds one of the current vaccine candidates that has entered Phase III testing. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had entered a contract with Moderna back in August as part of Operation Warp Speed. The contract with Moderna, worth approximately $1.5 billion USD, would allow for the United States to secure the first 100 million doses of the vaccine, along with an option to buy up to 400 million more doses. These contracts have been created with many pharmaceutical companies despite the fact that data about safety and efficacy has not been finalized yet, as all the clinical trials are still running. The terms and conditions of the contract have not been extensively disclosed, leaving the public in the dark to wonder important details about cost and access. The contract released is 53 pages, only of which 14 are unredacted.

NPR reported that “while the publicly posted Moderna contract includes previously unknown details, extensive redactions leave the public in the dark about some of the company’s obligations as well as the extent of protections for taxpayers.” Keep reading here.


What the Current COVID-19 Vaccine Trials Cannot Tell Us

For almost an entire year now, all eyes have been focusing on research to find a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19. What are these clinical trials really measuring?

Peter Doshi of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports that the current Phase III vaccine trials are not inherently designed to prove the two things that an antiviral vaccine is supposed to do. First, it should “reduce the likelihood you will get severely ill and go to the hospital” and secondly, it must “prevent infection and therefore interrupt disease transmission.”

Nevertheless, none of the current Phase III trials are set up to detect reductions in serious outcomes, including the number of hospital admissions, the use or necessity of intensive care, or deaths. The vaccines are also not being studied to see if they can interrupt the transmission of the virus.

So what are the current vaccines really doing? Read more from the BMJ here.


South Africa, COVID-19, and the MMR Vaccine

According to Global Citizen, researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in South Africa have recently launched a trial to test to see if a vaccine given for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) can serve as an effective defense against COVID-19.

While the new effort is not an attempt to hinder current vaccine research, scientists are hoping to use it to protect individuals, like frontline healthcare workers, who have a higher probability of exposure to the vaccine than most.

Countries involved in this research effort include South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, USA, UK, and more. Read more about the vaccine trial here.

News Take Action

10/21: Join Us for a Funk Rally!

What do you get when you put lab coats with a message, 70’s fashion, and brightly-colored formal attire in a room with activists pushing for a People’s Vaccine? A Funk Rally!

Save The Date: October 21st

On October 21st, join us and our allies in Washington D.C. for our first Funk Rally for a COVID-19 Vaccine. The rally will start around 12:30pm EST at 100 Maryland Avenue SW, and end around 4:30pm EST across from the African American History Museum. Join us for a short march to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to demand that all people have access to a tested, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccine. See more information in the flyer above.

The Event

The event will begin with a Moment of Silence and Opening Procession to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 this year. The event will also include a Funk Rally down Independence Avenue. Our goal is to build momentum. We will end with closing remarks at the Washington Monument and a Global Dance Circle! We are rallying to celebrate life and encourage our institutions to do better and provide a People’s Vaccine. Think bright colors — come in your semi-formal, disco, or the fanciest party attire that you can find.

Last but not least — bring your dancing skills, your friends and family, and your masks!

Access Champions News

Meet a Free the Vaccine Participant: Zeph

Zeph has been a visual artist and also an activist for most of their adult life. They came out of a visual arts background and have worked a lot with grassroots social movements. They spend a lot of time in the streets doing creative, direct action! Read more for wisdom from one of our Season 1 and 2 participants!

What does artistic activism mean to you? 

When I think of artistic activism, I think about bringing creative approaches to campaigns— specifically working with social movements that have concrete goals and objectives, and figuring out creative ways to meet those objectives. I also think about ways to bring radical imagining and more artistic methods to build radical imaginations and sustain communities in a way they are able to continue moving forward. They should be able to build the type of world that they want to be in. I think that it can be a larger goal than for a specific campaign; it can be about building those imaginative muscles. 

Why did you choose to join the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign?  

I joined because I have been following the work of the Center for Artistic Activism for a while, and I was curious as to how they collaborate their methodologies for working with social justice groups. I wanted to participate in their project and I had less connection to the access to medicines movement. The interesting thing about being in the project is working with students who are really committed to access to medicines. Their set of knowledge and skills and their own understanding of the issue— figuring out how I can bring my creative skillset into the picture to bring those things together feels powerful. 

In your eyes, what are some of the most meaningful moments or actions from the campaign so far?

In our first season, the group that I was working with specifically targeted one researcher. We made him a beautiful, customized sleep mask for him as a gift to try to pique his interest. It did not work— one of the lessons we learned was that they put a lot of effort into one individual. For the new efforts in Season 2, we want to reach an individual who is a decision maker at Arizona, but also somebody who has the ability to reach a wider audience. There is a potential to not only move him, but also use the same approach to talk to students, faculty, and staff at ASU who hopefully will have some attachment to the creative tactics they are using. 

Ideally, what do you hope for other participants, and yourself, to get out of the campaign?

I hope that students who are new to creative advocacy get excited about this approach and start applying it to all the interesting work that they are passionate about. The more people that are thinking creatively about how they can achieve the goals that they are imagining, the more effective work will be happening. It is exciting to see other people getting excited about these tools. For me, it is good practice to be thinking about ways to come with the creative toolset and really collaborate with people who are well-versed in the issues. It is a chance to sharpen my collaborative toolkit. 

See some artwork from Zeph’s website below. Check out their website for more!