In the Media

People’s Shareholder Meeting to Free the Vaccine

Common Dreams highlighted the week of action in the US calling for the Biden Administration to support a waver of patent monopolies at the World Trade Organization.

The week of action in the US is part of the broader People’s Vaccine weeks of coordinated action to pressure pharma and governments around the world to take necessary steps to ensure that vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 are available to everyone equitable.

On April 22nd, Free the Vaccine joined several activist and advocacy organizing groups for a People’s Shareholder Meeting. It took place at Pfizer headquarters in New York City while the annual shareholders’ meeting went on inside.


In the Media

Free the Vaccine exhibition moves students to action at UMaine

The University of Maine’s student newspaper The Maine Campus reported on the Free the Vaccine’s exhibit was on display at the university’s Innovative Media Research and Commercialization Center until April 16.

Director of the Intermedia Program Susan Smith said of the exhibit:

“We brought an international exhibition to UMaine’s IMRC Center as the first location to host ‘Creativity vs. COVID,’ an exhibition of work created by artists, students [and] scientists in over 18 countries,” Smith said.

“As director, it is important to me that students see the potential for their role beyond the classroom in a society in which art can serve to create change, and to bring information to a wider audience,” Smith said. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and while they have had to struggle with the challenges that have presented, there exists also the opportunity for them to use their work like never before.”

Rochelle Lawrence a MFA student in the intermedia program said of using art for activism:

“The global pandemic has changed the way we are able to be in the world and as an artist, the isolating effect of the shutdown has opened my eyes to the importance that science has on our lives every day,” Lawrence said. “It has also shown me how such a large part of the United States’ population is skeptical of science. Making artwork that promotes the vaccine has been a chance to use art as a communication device. Art is an amazing tool for grabbing people’s attention so that they might think further about how the vaccine can impact their lives and in turn, move us toward herd immunity.”

The work did not stop with the exhibit. On April 2 intermedia students used projectors to display the message “A Shot in the Dark” on campus buildings. Students used animations and images from the Free the Vaccine logo.

“This work has inspired the students to be involved in their community. We are working on projects focusing on monuments, statues and erased histories, and one of the first projects will be a trail of “monuments” memorializing lives lost to COVID.”

Susan Smith, Director University of Maine Intermedia Program

Read the full article in The Main Campus here.

Image credit: David Jakacky

In the Media

FTV Exhibit Covered in Indiana University News

The Free the Vaccine exhibit was covered in the news from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)! Laura Holzman, who curates the exhibit with other FTV members, is an associate professor and public scholar of curatorial practices and visual art at IUPUI.

Herron Galleries at IUPUI will host the exhibit this spring. Joseph Mella, director and curator of the Herron Galleries says of the exhibit: “‘Creativity vs. COVID’ reveals the central role that art can take in expanding our understanding of incredibly important issues, such as the pandemic we find ourselves in today,” said Joseph Mella, director and curator of the Herron Galleries.

Read the full article: ‘Creativity vs. COVID’ uses artistic activism to communicate needs for vaccine.

In the Media

Free the Vaccine lead highlights for NBC how racial disparities create barriers to access for the COVID-19 vaccine

“Without considering racial equity, we deepen the cracks that systemic racism has already created in our health care system,” said Sernah Essien.

In the Media

Solidarity Live! with Merith Basey

Merith joins Jocelyn from Act.Tv and Alex from Social Security Works to discuss Free the Vaccine and what the new vaccine announcements really mean for global equity.

🔈 Download Audio only: 50MB MP3 file

In the Media News

A People’s Vaccine: The Global Call

COVID-19 survivors around the world have united to call for a People’s Vaccine

The People’s Vaccine alliance, a coalition of organizations and world leaders (including Free the Vaccine for COVID-19!), is a global call for a free and accessible COVID-19 vaccine, a people’s vaccine. 

An Open Letter

On September 28th, over one thousand COVID-19 survivors, along with family members and susceptible individuals, signed an open letter to pharmaceutical corporations, demanding that they leave their monopoly-seeking greed behind as the world struggles to fight and recover from a virus that has already taken the lives of over one million individuals worldwide.

The letter asks that corporations immediately license any intellectual property rights related to vaccine technologies to the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). By doing so, Oxfam, UNAIDS, Free the Vaccine for COVID-19, and other organizations involved in the alliance are calling on governments around the world to keep diagnostic tools, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19 away from the restrictive world of patents. 

A Video Message from COVID-19 Survivors

Today, the alliance launched the official People’s Vaccine website, along with an incredible video made by COVID-19 survivors advocating for a free and accessible vaccine for everyone, everywhere. We need your help in getting it out — keep sharing the video via the People’s Vaccine Twitter and Facebook!

In the Media News

Op-Ed: I volunteered to be a human guinea pig for a Covid vaccine

Image from The Guardian

Thomas Gokey is a current Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 participant and a Phase 3 trial volunteer. Since Phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccines have begun accepting participants, thousands across the globe have been volunteering to help science learn if a vaccine is safe and effective for larger public use. Have you ever wondered how these volunteers feel about access to a COVID-19 vaccine?

I am willing to risk my life to make humanity safer — not to make Big Pharma richer or to create a vaccine only for Americans.

Thomas Gokey in the Guardian

In a recent Op-Ed published in the Guardian, Thomas Gokey shares his thoughts as an insider — a volunteer for a COVID-19 vaccine trial — who had second thoughts on his decision to participate in the clinical trial. Gokey noted “I am willing to risk my life to make humanity safer — not to make Big Pharma richer or to create a vaccine only for Americans.” Gokey’s concerns were influenced in part by the U.S. decision to not join Covax, an effort linked to the World Health Organization (WHO) to distribute a coronavirus vaccine globally. Be sure to read the full Op-Ed here.

We admire Thomas both for for his generosity and his critical eye when it comes to Phase 3 trials and his participation in Free the Vaccine for COVID-19.

Access Champions In the Media

The Human Rights Defender: Ishtar Lakhani

Photo of Ishtar Lakhani from Chris Collingridge (Maverick Citizen)

Have you heard the news? A new avenger was just added— the human rights defender. Having participated in both Season 1 and Season 2, she just happens to be a key member of our Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 team. Ishtar Lakhani was recently highlighted as Maverick Citizen’s Friday Activist where her work involving many social justice projects around the globe was covered. 

Ishtar told the crew at Maverick Citizen that her mission is to “break new ground through creativity, humour, and play — putting the ‘fun’ in fundamental rights.” Sound familiar? As an alum of the Center for Artistic Activism, one of the collaborators for the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 Campaign, Ishtar’s passion lies in creative activism and she brings her knowledge and expertise to advocacy work across several continents.

Ishtar exemplified her work in social justice and creative activism with an ongoing project in Australia. She is working with an organization to help raise awareness about the evolution of women’s rights from the 1920s to now by creating a “real life time machine” that would transport people back to the 1920s. Originally from South Africa, Ishtar has also worked as an advocacy manager for the Sex Workers’ Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), where she fought to decriminalize sex work in South Africa. 

Be sure to check out the rest of the piece highlighting the work that our own resident “freelance troublemaker” Ishtar does here. And keep coming back to hear more about the incredible individuals that make up the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 team! 

In the Media

Op-Ed in the Hartford Courant: Merith Basey, FTV Project Manager and UAEM North America Executive Director, Holds Yale Accountable

On July 16th, the Hartford Courant published a letter to the editor by Merith Basey, the Executive Director for UAEM North America and one of our leads at the Free The Vaccine campaign, in which she responds to a June 28th op-ed by Jon Soderstrom—head of technology transfer at Yale. The op-ed had argued for strong intellectual property rights during the pandemic, citing and skewing UAEM’s origin story in the process. As Merith writes:

When Soderstrom highlights the story from 2001 of a Yale-invented AIDS drug for which Bristol-Myers Squibb, a major pharmaceutical corporation, chose to “lower the price,” he omitted a critical piece in the plot development: a group of Yale students, in conjunction with allies were a driving force behind this lowered price.

Twenty years later, this fight for health equity and justice continues via Universities Allied for Essential Medicines not just on the Yale campus but at universities across more than 20 countries, to ensure that publicly funded medicines are affordable to the public, including those for COVID-19. People are beginning to recognize, in light of the pandemic, that the patent system is outdated and is a cause of the high price of medicines and inequality worldwide. While researchers at leading institutions around the world are racing to develop targeted COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines, they are doing so with public, taxpayer funds. An estimated $6 billion dollars worldwide has been spent to date. However, unless universities patent and license these public innovations in a socially responsible manner there will be no guarantee that they will be sustainably priced, available to everyone, or free at the point of delivery, which is what we need to curb the pandemic.

In the Media News

Op-ed in the Vanderbilt Hustler: UAEM students call for Vanderbilt to free the vaccine

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.

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