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Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Joyce-Zoe Farley, Ph.D.

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)  

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Communications@essentialmedicine.org

Students and Activists Urge Arizona State University’s President Crow to Sign Open COVID Pledge for a People’s Vaccine

WASHINGTON, DC–December 10, 2020 — “…Big Pharma is waiting for a public discovery, so they can make big money off the COVID recovery…If Big Pharma’s vaccine costs a whole lot, the haves will have it; the have-nots will not.” Members of the Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign released a sneak preview of a Dr. Seuss children’s inspired book to draw attention to the coronavirus vaccinations and its related health justice issues. 

In the past several weeks, Moderna and Pfizer both announced that their respective vaccines are over 90 percent effective in preventing exposure to COVID-19. They are awaiting FDA emergency authorization to begin inoculating Americans. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! With a Free Vaccine! is sending a message to COVID-19 vaccine response key players: no one should have to pay for it a second time when the vaccine hits the market. This message also extends to universities where the vast majority of research on inoculation is being developed. To date, taxpayers have contributed nearly $10 billion dollars to vaccine development per the HHS website. 

“What many people don’t realize is that they’ve already paid for the COVID-19 vaccine. Much of the research that big pharmaceutical companies claim as the reason for charging such high prices is actually publicly funded,” said Brittany Herrick, MPH, member of Free the Vaccine and Public Health Advocate with the Health Global Access Project (Health GAP).

Members of the campaign are specifically targeting Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Ariz., as the university has announced they are committed to conducting critical research on COVID-19 testing and vaccines. The decisions made by the university will contribute to coronavirus treatment, discoveries, and impact the distribution of treatments in the ASU and greater Tempe/Phoenix communities. 

Activists and students from Free the Vaccine are urging ASU President, Dr. Michael Crow, to sign the Open COVID Pledge, obligating the university to freely share intellectual property that the university holds or develops that could help end the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize any further devastation due to the illness. “By signing the Open COVID Pledge, Dr. Michael Crow has the opportunity to show the world that Arizona State University is committed to being at the forefront of the movement to end the COVID-19 pandemic and willing to make history as the first university to make this pledge,” said Shreya Kosuru, honors student at Arizona State University and member of Free the Vaccine.

The project Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine, is an homage to Dr. Seuss’ classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. The childhood favorite is enjoyed by children around the world and it’s the message now is to advance humanity, compassion, and make ASU’s intellectual property open to all to aid in eradicating the coronavirus. “Like so many people, we were inspired by the story of Dr. Jonas Salk. He discovered the polio vaccine and refused to patent it, making it possible to eliminate the threat of Polio in all but a few remaining countries,” said Zeph Fishlyn, member of Free The Vaccine. Salk is a pioneer and revered scientist who is best admired and known for putting public health and humanity above and beyond the need to make millions during the Polio epidemic.

The sneak preview of ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine’ can be found in the exhibit on YouTube. The entire project is expected to be released on Free the Vaccine website before the end of the year. 

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Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 is a global campaign launched by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and the Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA), working to ensure that tax-payer funded coronavirus vaccines are sustainably priced, available to all, and free at the point of delivery. Launched in March 2020, it’s in its second round of university student-led activism supported by medical professionals and allies with over 300 participants from 30 countries. To learn more, go to freethevaccine.org 

The Open COVID Pledge calls on research universities, institutions, and pharmaceutical companies to make their vaccine(s), treatment(s), therapeutic(s), and computer software freely available in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pledge is a coalition of researchers, scientists, academics, and lawyers working to accelerate the rapid development and deployment of necessary aid and equipment to control the transmission of the coronavirus. The project is now led by Creative Commons. https://opencovidpledge.org 

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PRESIDENT BIDEN: MAKE A PEOPLE’S VACCINE

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, more than 100 high-level leaders from public health, faith-based, racial justice, and labor organizations, joined former members of Congress, economists, and artists to sign a public letter calling on President-elect Biden to make the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine a People’s Vaccine: a global public good, freely and fairly available to all, prioritizing those most in need here at home and around the world. Free The Vaccine has joined the call encouraging the need for a vaccine for ALL people. 

“A safe, effective and accessible COVID-19 vaccine is vital to bring an end to today’s dual economic and health crisis – so our families are safe, so people can get back to work, so we can live our lives again,” the letter says. “No one anywhere is safe from this disease until everyone everywhere is safe.”

The public letter comes as the leading vaccine candidates have already or will prepare to apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Signers include philanthropists Abigail Disney and Chelsea Clinton, actors Alyssa Milano, Aisha Tyler, Maz Jobrani, and Forest Whitaker, professors Joseph Stiglitz and Noam Chomsky, and activist Ady Barkan. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich and former members of Congress Lynn Woolsey, Mary Jo Kilroy, Claudine Schneider, and Sander Levin also signed.

The letter recognizes that President-elect Biden can bring about a People’s Vaccine as the fastest and most effective way to fight this pandemic, reopen our businesses and schools, protect Americans and our interests, and save lives here in the US and around the world. 

“The next US President will have tremendous power to help decide who gets access to protection from this virus, when and at what cost,” the letter continues. “With this power comes a historic opportunity for America to lead again by leveraging the strength, know-how, and generosity of our people to combat this disease here at home and wherever it resides.”

“The only strategy to end the pandemic as quickly as possible is by ensuring we have a People’s Vaccine–safe, effective, available for all, and free at the point of delivery,” says Merith Basey, Universities of Allied for Essential Medicines, Executive Director of North America. 

As scientists deliver the breakthroughs needed for the COVID-19 vaccine, all vaccines must be made in quantities that ensure everyone, everywhere can be protected. Despite largely being funded by public money, pharmaceutical companies have not made the necessary commitments to ensure global production and global access. In fact, many have indicated that they intend to profit off their sale, and the highest bidders are already reserving the limited quantities that individual manufacturers can produce. The scarcity this competition creates means the COVID-19 crisis could be around for much longer than if a vaccine was made widely available to all.

Renowned epidemiologist Arthur Reingold joined Vanessa Kerry, Director of the Program in Global Public Policy and Social Change at Harvard Medical School and CEO of Seed Global Health, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable, Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners In Health, Abby Maxman, President and CEO of Oxfam America, Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, and Morris Pearl, former Managing Director of BlackRock and chairperson of Patriotic Millionaires to also sign the letter. 

The group calls on President-elect Biden to:

  1. Guarantee all vaccines are sold at affordable prices, as close to cost as possible, to ensure that the US and other governments can provide protection to people for free. 
  2. Ensure full transparency and accountability over US funding for the development of COVID-19 vaccines.
  3. Ensure that companies and research institutions share vaccine technologies and know-how nationally and globally to overcome price and supply barriers, especially for those vaccines developed with taxpayer money.
  4. Prevent monopoly control of production in order to mobilize large-scale and decentralized manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines to adequately supply safe and effective vaccines for people here and around the world.
  5. Work collaboratively with world leaders and health authorities worldwide to deliver and implement a fair and equitable global distribution plan for the vaccine and all COVID-19 products and technologies.
  6. Empower scientists to independently determine – without fear or favor – if each vaccine is safe and effective for approval. Neither politics nor profits have a place in the vaccine approval process.
  7. Prioritize protection for those people most in need and most at risk, including frontline healthcare and social-care workers, essential workers, older people, people with pre-existing conditions at higher risk, and high-transmission communities here and around the world. 

“US taxpayers have already committed more than $10 billion in public money towards a COVID19 vaccine,” the letter continues. “A vaccine paid for by the people should work for the people and remain of the people.”

Read the full letter here.

/ENDS

Editor’s note: This public letter is part of the global Peoples’ Vaccine campaign backed by past and present world leaders, health experts, faith leaders and economists. For more information visit: https://peoplesvaccine.org

On Sunday, G20 leaders pledged to support the “affordable and equitable” global distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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UAEM Press Release: Moderna Should Free All COVID-19 IP

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

WASHINGTON, DC–October 9, 2020–Moderna announced yesterday, under pressure from civil society groups including Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 and its allies in their calls for a People’s Vaccine, that it will not enforce patent protections on the pending coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273. While such actions are a step in the right direction, they are without a doubt being made as a result of financial responsibility to US taxpayers, and the global need to contain and eradicate the virus. This is all a requirement for a People’s Vaccine, a growing global movement requiring that when safe and effective vaccine(s) are available they are produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people everywhere, free of charge. 

In August 2020, Free the Vaccine for COVID-19  and its allies held a protest outside of Moderna’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., to urge the corporation to remove intellectual property rights around their pending coronavirus vaccine which was paid for with US taxpayer dollars, and to commit to signing the OpenCOVID pledge

To date, Moderna has received close to a $1 billion dollars of taxpayer money for COVID vaccine research and development, which doesn’t include the additional $1.5 billion dollars the U.S. government was slated to pay for 300 million vials of the vaccine once it cleared drug trials. Unsurprisingly, big pharma once again was going to rip off the American public and handsomely profit off of the pandemic. 

Despite a corporate press statement from Moderna highlighting the significance of IP rights and its hurdles, “…[we] recognize that intellectual property rights play an important role in encouraging investment in research,” this isn’t enough. Again, the corporation has yet to sign the Open COVID Pledge. The pledge would help prevent coronavirus-related intellectual property rights from being a future barrier to access worldwide.

“Centering patents and profit will only prolong this plague. Moderna must take action now to ensure that their publicly-funded vaccine candidate is sustainably priced and available to all. We cannot defeat this pandemic without global solidarity, and Moderna can play their part by opening up access to their intellectual property and pricing the vaccine sustainably,” says Sernah Essien, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), North America Coordinating Committee Member and a Free The Vaccine Project Manager. 

In addition to urging Moderna to sign the Open COVID Pledge, the Free the Vaccine campaign is calling on the corporation to commit to sharing all rights and knowledge patent to the World Health’s Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) for as long as is necessary to end the pandemic. Any decision to the contrary will lead to further unnecessary deaths and vaccine apartheid where only high income countries have priority access.

“We urgently need a People’s Vaccine: available to everyone, everywhere free of charge” says Merith Basey, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Executive Director, North America. “Any monopolies on a vaccine will only keep prices artificially high and leaving entire nations at risk of vaccine apartheid. No one will be safe until we are all safe and this will be the most efficient way to end the pandemic as quickly as possible”.

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Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 Campaign is a partnership between Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA). The global movement in nearly 30 countries with roughly 300 college students, creatives, and medical professionals using digital advocacy and the arts to get universities, pharmaceutical companies, and research entities to sign the Open COVID Pledge, as well as, ensure that COVID-19 vaccine(s) are accessible, sustainably priced, and available to all. The international pledge asks organizations to make their IP free and available to all in the battle against the coronavirus. Currently, Free The Vaccine is in its second round and is at the forefront of the social vaccine action. To learn more, visit us at freethevaccine.org.  

About Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) is a non-profit organization rooted in a movement of university students. UAEM seeks to: 1) Promote access to medicines for people in developing countries by changing norms and practices around university patenting and licensing; 2) Ensure that university medical research meets the needs of the majority of the world’s population; 3) Empower students to respond to the access and innovation crises. Since its founding in 2001, UAEM has grown into an international network of students in medicine, law, public health and related fields with chapters on nearly 100 university campuses in 20 countries. Find out more at http://uaem.org

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Media Contact: Joyce-Zoe Farley, Ph.D.

Media & Communications Consultant

201.983.3787 (c)

Communications@essentialmedicine.org