Remember this stunning action that the Ligers put together?
Turns out it’s pretty easy for you to do on your own, and we hope you will! To make the process as simple as possible, the Liger Lab has made this great how-to video for you:
Once you’ve made your masks, all that’s left to do is find an iconic statue in your area! Slip the mask on the statue (while wearing one of your own, of course), snap a photo, and then take the mask off the statue. In a recent Wednesday webinar, Steve (our Free The Vaccine project manager and veteran creative activist) offered some tips for documenting actions:
Move your body as you take photos! Don’t be afraid of looking silly: you need the right angles for a good shot.
Take a TON of photos. Expect to have one good photo for every twenty-four that you take!
Capture the context and the detail. For example, take pictures of the area around the monument, and take close-up pictures of the mask you’ve made. You want to have all the information you need to tell a story in photos.
Capture a before and after. (Mask on, mask off.)
Use the best camera you can! You may have a really great camera or iPhone. You may need to borrow a friend’s.
Ask questions and answer them. This can mean taking pictures and videos that tell a story, but it can also mean literally asking questions. Can you interview passersby to ask them what they think of the action?
Think of one iconic photo that captures as much of the story as possible. This helps get your message out effectively in the media and on social media!
Don’t forget to tag us if you use these tips in your own mask action, or in another creative demonstration to free the vaccine.
Last week, famous Australian bioethicist Peter Singer tweeted his support for Free The Vaccine.
It wasn’t a random gesture of support; Dolphin Lab members had reached out asking for him to show his support on social media and for permission to use his support as leverage in meetings with the University of Melbourne–and he was happy to do both! The campaign around Melbourne continues to gain traction, as our activists make progress on the biggest version of the syringe sculpture yet (that means photos to come soon), and squad members plan how to make the most of this demonstration with posters and documentation.
Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden Promises to Share Access to Vaccine
In a conversation with healthcare activist and UAEM alum Ady Barkan, Joe Biden promised that if elected, he would share US-developed COVID-19 technologies and ensure that patents do not stand in the way of other countries accessing the vaccine. While this commitment is currently only rhetorical and not a full-fledged plan, it’s incredibly important that we have this assurance, which will allow activists to hold the president accountable if Biden is elected. It also represents a deviation from the current administration’s approach of vaccine nationalism.
Rich Donor Countries Will “Have Their Cake And Eat It Too” With Gavi’s Covax Facility
Last month, Gavi informed governments considering donating to its new Covax Facility that donors would be able to “benefit from a larger portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines,” with donor governments receiving vaccine doses for 20% of their populations, no strings attached, when a vaccine is discovered in Gavi’s pool of candidates. This includes countries which have already made agreements with pharmaceutical companies to secure the world’s drug supply for their own citizens, like the United States.
According to this arrangement, the rules will be different for rich and poor countries. Although poor countries will also receive donated vaccines from Gavi, unlike rich countries, they will have to follow a particular immunization framework set by the United Nations. Furthermore, rich donor countries will not be required to donate vaccines if their supply exceeds public health need. While Gavi has argued that such incentives are necessary to ensure investment from rich countries, activists worry that the deals being made right now tip the balance in favor of rich countries. Gavi and other organizations will have to bargain later on in order to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine–but by that point, they may have less to bargain with.
If you didn’t know by now, individual supporters can sign on to the Open COVID Pledge on our website, with a form that takes only a minute or two to fill out! If you haven’t added your name yet, take a minute to do so now. If you’ve already added your name, try to get a few of your friends to do the same!
Feeling nervous about asking a few friends? Free The Vaccine project manager Victoria El-Hayek has gathered 75 signatures from people she knows. Here’s what she has to say:
A lot of people, especially in America, don’t realize that access to a COVID vaccine won’t be a guarantee. Because of this, increasing awareness of FTV is so important as this campaign is for every single person in this world. Sharing the individual sign on for the pledge is a great (and easy) way to help people understand the necessity of this campaign. There are so many ways to share this pledge. You can post it all over social media (Facebook groups are great for this) or send it in emails but what I’ve found is the best way to get people to sign on is by texting them and explaining why this is important for everyone, but also why you care about this campaign so much and ask them to sign on and share it with others! 99% if people will be more than willing to sign on knowing how important it is to you. People in your life, even if you haven’t talked in awhile, are more willing to help you out than you might realize so don’t be afraid to ask!
An op-ed by UAEM student Klara Lou, published in the Vanderbilt Hustler on July 15th, discussed the Free The Vaccine campaign in the context of the university’s broader commitments to social justice, and called for the university to join the Open COVID Pledge:
Alongside UAEM Vanderbilt, UAEM has partnered with The Center with Artistic Activism to launch a global #FreetheVaccine campaign, calling for affordable access to future COVID-19 treatments and vaccines. The U.S. campaign’s current focus is targeting institutions to sign the Open COVID Pledge to ensure that the products of university COVID-19 research are manufactured and priced affordably to fully meet the public demand. Specifically, the campaign has recently targeted Vanderbilt with the “Jolene” Vaccine Lip-Sync Challenge, in honor of Dolly Parton’s generous donation to Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 research. Through public statements by our student organizations and signing the #FreetheVaccine petition, we must voice our support for a free vaccine and pressure Vanderbilt to sign the Pledge.
Vanderbilt plays a significant role in COVID-19 research. As students at a powerful research institution, we must urge Vanderbilt to sign the Open COVID Pledge, promising that it will share its COVID-19 research findings and developments without strings attached. By signing this pledge, Vanderbilt may also put pressure on our other fellow research universities to make what is obviously a morally right decision. We, the students, must speak up through our actions for the #FreetheVaccine movement. We, the students, must urge Vanderbilt to choose people over profits and make its intellectual property available for free in order to treat as many people and end the pandemic as quickly as possible.
An article by Natalie Shure and Fran Quigley, published in Jacobin on July 13th, opened with a reminder of Alex Azar’s refusal to promise an affordable COVID-19 vaccine. The article highlights the significance of public investment in biomedical R&D, and argues that a public system of pharmaceutical manufacturing and pricing could be the answer to our current crisis and to problems with access to medicines overall:
Publicly provisioned drug development would not only keep public research in the public domain, but allow for democratic oversight over what drugs get made. Publicly funded clinical trials will reduce gamesmanship and concealment of critical data, giving us more reliable and credible information than ever. And public pharmaceutical manufacturing and pricing offers a much more straightforward pathway to affordable drugs than the current one, which relies on waiting out years of patents, followed by the entry of multiple generics manufacturers into the market to eventually compete prices down.
This week, we’d like to introduce you to two more members of our wonderful Free The Vaccine community: Vivian Peng and Kaity Licina, both from Los Angeles, California! Vivian and Kaity are members of the Otter Lab, which is comprised of activists from California and mostly SoCal.
A data scientist, artist, and activist with years of experience in the access to medicines movement, Vivian is a mentor in the Otter Lab who has traveled as far as Lashio and Rakhine state in Myanmar while on assignment with MSF with Doctors Without Borders!
After the city shut down and filming on the television show she works on was postponed, Kaity—a hairstylist for film and television—decided to dedicate her talent for creative problem-solving to our campaign!
Now that you’ve met Vivian and Kaity, read on for what they’ve learned so far and what they’d like to share with fellow activists! This portion of their interviews have been condensed slightly for ease of reading.
What made you decide to join the Free The Vaccine campaign?
Vivian: One of the coolest things about participating in this campaign is seeing how many of the same access to medicines activists are still in this work, still in this fight, and also being able to share that information with a whole broader audience which we really wouldn’t have been able to reach previously. It’s exciting to see that kind of transformation.
Kaity: I saw this as an opportunity to be helpful for the greater good, and work in activism is something that normally, my schedule doesn’t really have a lot of time available for, so it was kind of a perfect storm. As it has worked out, the longer I’ve participated in Free The Vaccine, the longer it seems it will be before we’ll be able to go back to work in any sort of full-time capacity. So the timing is pretty perfect!
What’s your most unique skill that’s come in handy during this campaign?
Vivian: Probably my design skills! We printed these baseball cards of the research scientists we wanted to highlight as heroes of the campaign, and on the back of the card we have their “stats,” and we encourage them to sign the Open COVID Pledge. So we’ll be shipping these out to the researchers! I love having things in physical space, things you can touch. It’s harder to ignore than an email or something digital.
Kaity: Generally, people with a theatrical background and people who have trained to work in theater, whether at an academic or professional level, have a very [laughs] well-rounded skill set in terms of the idea that the show must go on. I can’t even count the number of times in my career I’ve been forced to solve a problem in the moment, creatively and quickly, to deliver projects under budget, to deal with all sorts of different personalities and all different levels of stress. Those “soft” skills that people talk about, in terms of teamwork and relating to groups, I think are where theater people kind of excel, because we’re just really used to big personalities, tight deadlines, long hours, and managing to get through it all. I’m used to making art on very small budgets, I started my career in the mid-2000s, so I was a starving artist for many years. And I’ve always sort of made stuff out of nothing. I’ve been making a lot of cut paper designs of posters, just because I have time, [laughs] I have paper, I have very little computer skills. I think the craftivism aspect is where my strength is.
What’s the most useful lesson you’ve learned from your work so far?
Vivian: To get to know people beyond their work, or whatever label we place on ourselves and on each other. When we were first getting to know each other as a group, we just went around and asked what everyone’s profession was. Some were students, some were artists, some worked in research, which is great! But I think the most interesting part was when midway through the campaign, we went around and shared what our hidden talents were, and I feel like that’s when it really opened up our brainstorming process, and opened up our possibilities. Because we were no longer just thinking about how we contribute as a “worker,” but thinking in terms of our interests and how we blend those mediums together. So a lot of people were talking about how they’re good at arts and crafts, or baking, or styling. My secret talent is that I’m really good at Photoshopping things. Not in a design sense, but for example, Photoshopping a cat’s head onto a human body and making it look seamless. Being able to break out of our molds was really inspiring and allowed a lot more ideas to flourish.
Kaity: Just how much there is to still learn about the way the world works, and the fact that profit is so much more of an incentive to a large part of the population. Being rich or having a lot of money has never been that interesting to me, or at least not a huge priority, and so the rude awakening of how the pharmaceutical industry is reducing access to medicines for people… has changed my outlook on the world forever. Because it’s such a sad idea to be hurting or to die just because you’re poor, or to become poor just because you’re unfortunately unwell. It hits really close to home. There were some incidents when I was younger and didn’t have health insurance where I had to be hospitalized, and I was too scared to ride in an ambulance because I knew I couldn’t afford it. And that’s unfortunately the case for a lot of people in this country. So now that I’m in a more comfortable position and I have the time to devote to helping other people, it feels important to me. I think it will be a cause I champion for the rest of my life.
What’s the coolest idea you’ve gotten or skill you’ve learned from another participant?
Vivian: The coolest piece I’ve seen in this whole campaign is the “Jolene” song. I’ve seen so many times when public health people try to make music or songs about public health messages, and it just comes out really cheesy, and this time I thought it was very clever, really well written. I was blown away by the talent of the people singing. Also, it felt like an effortless initiative to infuse pop culture rather than trying to force pop culture onto something that wasn’t a good fit. That’s been really cool to witness and it’s definitely inspired a lot of our own ideas.
Kaity: I will say that this time away from people, being home alone with only technology, has forced me to learn very quickly a lot of technology I was not familiar with. Zoom was brand new to me, sharing Google Docs was new to me, and watching the skill with which my teammates navigate the internet social media, and graphic design has been really amazing. They’re teaching me things, and I’m picking things up by osmosis.
Thanks for reading the second spotlight on our wonderful team! Make sure to check out the first spotlight if you haven’t read it yet. We hope to continue introducing you to the incredible people from so many different backgrounds doing this work!
An op-ed by Sophia Crabbe-Field, published on July 8th in Democracy Journal, explains the debate over access to COVID-19 vaccines and the need for people’s vaccine:
Should the pharmaceutical industry be successful in convincing the world they are indeed the heroes of the story, simply by putting out safe and effective treatments for American patients, the American public could remain mostly in the dark about what delays were created or opportunities were missed along the way by eschewing a system of open knowledge on medicines. They could also remain in the dark about just how much it was actually public money and government scientists that were responsible for developing a vaccine. Alternatives to the existing monopoly system, those promoted by health groups including Doctors Without Borders, politicians like Bernie Sanders, and economists from Joseph Stiglitz to Mariana Mazzucato—including pools, prize funds, grants, or even government-run agencies—could remain on the margins of public debate. Yet should the pharmaceutical industry fail in this endeavor, the world is watching. The patent-based system that has too often locked away knowledge to the detriment of our health could be cracked open, and alternative mechanisms for acquiring and sharing life-saving knowledge may finally see the light of day.
Several weeks ago, our participants decided to make a Free The Vaccine video inspired by “Jolene” after learning that Vanderbilt University had received $10 million from the US government for COVID-19 vaccine research, in addition to $1 million from country singer Dolly Parton. Today, we launched our initial music video, and at the time I write this, our video has been viewed over 238,000 times (and counting).
Now we’re asking you to join us, following the instructions here to make your own video lip-syncing to our “Jolene” parody so you can be included in a future video! We’re also asking you to share the video far and wide (you can find the YouTube link here), and tag Vanderbilt in any social media posts you make about it. Let’s make art together that lifts our spirits and builds power at the same time. We’ll keep you updated as this exciting campaign continues to develop!