Season 2 Episode 1: Podcasts, Pledges, and a People’s Vaccine

Season Kickoff of Free the Vaccine 

This week we had our first meeting with a new wave of volunteers. Participants learned who we are, what we do, and spoke to each other for a few minutes about our excitement for the campaign! Our new group is aged from under 18 to over 65, from 24 countries on every continent except Antarctica, and working in fields from economics, to medicine, to music, and education. In addition, we are happy to announce we have officially partnered with the Arts Corps as one of the leading organizations behind Free the Vaccine for COVID-19!

As always, Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 emphasizes an audience-driven, experiment-informed approach that strives to empower individuals to employ the creative tactics we teach during weekly meetings in their advocacy work. And we walk the walk. While most hour-long zoom calls end in snoozing (or boozing), Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 meetings have a surprising element. The end of our last meeting in July became the Season Finale and participants got one striking cliffhanger in the form of a soap opera developed by our team ending with a “Who Shot J.R.” moment. Mid-way through our first meeting, “The Season Premiere” on Wednesday, attendees saw the soap opera return with Nurse Merith, “S.L.”, Rebecca, an Evil Rebecca, and Dr. James Miles. The mystery continues…

These elements of our meetings – soap operas, awards, game shows – remind our participants that we appreciate the hard work and time they are dedicating to our campaign, and most importantly, that keeping things fun keeps our group’s vitality up, especially when the issues we’re facing are dire.

The Week in Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Podcast

One of the exciting new developments this season is our introduction of a news podcast available to everyone no matter your involvement in the campaign. This will soon be a public podcast feed, but you can get a sneak preview of the first episode here — stay tuned for more updates!

Vaccine Development 

If you are new to Free the Vaccine, or even if you need a recap, you may be wondering what is happening in the world of vaccine development. While tens of hundreds of scientists around the world have been pooling their resources to develop a vaccine, a few have advanced to Phase 3 trials, in which vaccines are administered to thousands of people and infection rates are compared with a placebo. Updates on the current Phase 3 vaccine trials can be found here. Our job now is to use our skills and training to make sure pharmaceutical greed does not keep these vaccines out of the public’s reach, if they are proven safe and effective.


We can’t fight covid-19 country by country

Our South African comrade Dr Zolelwa Sifumba shares why we need global solidarity and a plan to address Covid-19. Read her Op-Ed in the Scientific American here.


Who will get the vaccine?

Priti Krishtel, an Ashoka Fellow and one of our advisors here at Free the Vaccine, talks to Manmeet Mehta of Ashoka on who will get access to the vaccine and other life-saving medicines, how those decisions are made, and what changes – culture changes, changes in the U.S. patent system, etc. – are needed to move us to greater health equity. Free the Vaccine participants will be hearing more from Priti directly soon. You can follow on twitter at @pritikrishtel and @IMAKGlobal


Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

An exhibit of the work created in the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign is listed on the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries.

The Association of Academic Museums and Galleries is the leading educational and professional organization for academic museums, galleries, and collections. In recognition of the unique opportunities and challenges of its constituents, the AAMG establishes and supports best practices, educational activities and professional development that enable its member organizations to fulfill their educational missions.

The AAMG lists Creativity vs. COVID: Ending the Pandemic for Good for exhibition at Universities across the country.

Exhibition Overview:

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at universities and other publicly-funded institutions have been working to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines to better protect us and ease the public health crisis.

An international collective of university students, artists, and activists has also been working to make sure those treatments are available to everyone, everywhere, not just those with the ability to pay. Guaranteeing this access is crucial for ending the pandemic. And, from an ethical standpoint, it’s simply the right thing to do.

This innovative exhibition shares compelling creative work from the Free the Vaccine for Covid-19 campaign – from poster designs to viral parody music videos. In doing so, it introduces audiences to key issues that limit access to medicine and provides robust methods anyone can use to advocate for change from anywhere, especially at this time of social distancing.

Format: Interactive virtual exhibit with optional physical components.

Exhibition Fee: None.

Available beginning Fall 2020.

Ideal for university communities.

  • Higher education is home to essential COVID research and development.
  • Interdisciplinary content will resonate with students, faculty, and staff across campus: from the fine arts department to public health programs to scientific research labs.
  • Connects audiences with current events and fresh creative work, even if gallery spaces are restricted.

Flexible format and program options.

  • Online exhibition with optional physical components that you can print yourself.
  • For a limited number of venues, we’ll arrange to ship a set of materials.
  • Host a public conversation (virtual or face to face) that brings together university stakeholders to discuss access to COVID medicine, including: a student, a faculty member, and a representative from the university’s technology transfer office. Free the Vaccine team will help coordinate and facilitate as needed.

Vaccine Watch

Wondering how we’re progressing with regards to a save and effective vaccine? We are too. Here’s the latest.


How is Covid-19 impacting vulnerable communities worldwide?

Dr Jocelyn Kelly, Director of the Program on Gender, Rights and Resilience at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, discussed the Coronavirus Pandemic and how it has impacted some of the world’s most vulnerable populations during this Facebook Live Q&A with The World’s Elana Gordon. She also gives a shoutout to the work we are doing to #freethevaccine! Check it out now!


Now’s your chance: Season 2 of Free the Vaccine

You still have a little time (until end of day on Sept 1st!) to join the amazing crew of hundreds of students, designers, advocates and many others around the world who want to help end this darn pandemic through creativity and community. Submit your application now.


We’re Partnering with Arts Corps!

Our friends at Arts Corps, under the leadership of James Miles, will be joining the UAEM and C4AA teams as an official partner organization for this next Season 2 of Free the Vaccine!  The onslaught of the COVID-19 virus has shown to disproportionately impacts black and brown students,  students whom have already been disregarded by society. The work of Arts Corps is to ignite the power of youth voice and provide them with opportunities to have agency/be part of the solution, and work together to create a better, more equitable place for everyone.

Some of you may know James for his TedXSeattle Talk Why Education Needs Hip Hop and many of you know him for his workshops with UAEM which inspired students to develop these memes, songs, and videos to explain the failures of biomedical R&D systems. (you know how many slides this normally takes?)


James Miles: Why are we here? Community. Bringing people and seeing people together that make the air around you crackle.


We’re Hiring

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 is looking for the right candidate to join us as a Campaign Manager for Season 2 of our campaign!

Help us get the word out! If you know someone who would be a good match, please pass the application along!

Take Action

Boston Action: Free the Moderna Vaccine

The Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Campaign, led by Universities Allied For Essential Medicines and the Center For Artistic Activism, is calling on Moderna Sciences to make the Open Covid Pledge which would commit any relevant intellectual property to be made available globally via open access licenses, and to price their vaccine at cost to ensure global access and equitable distribution to protect the world’s most vulnerable peoples.

Moderna recently announced that taxpayer money funds 100% of its work to bring a COVID-19 vaccine to licensure, yet they still plan to rake in billions charging the highest price yet announced for a potential vaccine. It was also recently discovered that the U.S. government may co-own their vaccine candidate making this innovation truly the People’s Vaccine, and not another private commodity to be price gouged at will. 

Join FreeTheVaccine and allies on Friday, August 28th at 2PM at the Kendall Square MBTA Station and on FTV_Boston’s FaceBook live to demand the following:

  1. Moderna must make the Open Covid Pledge and commit to making all relevant Intellectual Property, clinical trial data, and any other essential manufacturing steps available for global generic production.
  2. Moderna must price their vaccine at cost to maximize access and affordability.
  3. If Moderna doesn’t enact these demands, we also call on the U.S. Government to enact march in rights to force non-exclusive licensing of all relevant IP to drive global generic production.
  4. The US Government and Moderna must work together to ensure the vaccine is free at the point of sale for individuals everywhere.

Fair and affordable pricing of the COVID-19 vaccines and drugs currently under development has the potential to save millions of lives. WE THE PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY PAID ONCE for the research and development of these products.  

If its new vaccine proves to be safe and effective, Moderna will have a choice to make. They can prioritize the interests of shareholders and executives thus furthering the destructive nature of this virus—or lead the way in fighting the defining health crisis of our generation.

For more information, reach out to the Boston Regional Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Organizers at  

More information can be found at the facebook invite here if you’re into that.