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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 People are beginning to recognize, in light of the pandemic, that the patent system is outdated and is a cause of the high price of medicines and inequality worldwide.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.

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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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In the Media

Op-Ed in WBUR on what we can learn from the AIDS crisis, plus a shoutout to Free The Vaccine

Don’t miss this fantastic piece by Michael Caron McGuill in WBUR’s Cognoscenti on what we can learn from ACT UP’s history, and why we need a free vaccine. McGuill writes:

One campaign fighting for global access and a free vaccine, Free the Vaccine, represents 29 countries and two organizations, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and the Center for Artistic Activism. Another is Lower Drug Prices Now, a U.S. coalition of nearly 60 social justice organizations.

My greatest hope is that when vaccines do arrive, they’ll be available first to those at greatest risk. In the U.S., that’s the elderly, the underinsured, the incarcerated, the homeless, the working class, health-care workers and first-responders, immigration detainees, racial minorities and those with high-risk medical conditions.

If our elected officials won’t ensure equitable, moral access to national and global life-saving vaccines, we must demand it.

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In the Media

Free The Vaccine on the UnfairNation Podcast

Merith Basey, one of our leaders here at Free The Vaccine and Executive Director at UAEM North America, recently went on the UnfairNation podcast to talk about why medicines are so expensive and why we need to free the vaccine. Check out the interview here!

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Free The Vaccine on the “Nice Work!” Podcast

Over the past few weeks, several Free The Vaccine participants have been featured on Tod Brilliant’s “Nice Work!” podcast, a project of the Super Nice Club.

Here you can check out Tod’s interview with Prince Andrew Ardayfio, a Salk Labs member in Accra, Ghana!

And here you can listen to his interview with Free The Vaccine team leads, Rebecca and Steve, who discuss the campaign so far!

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Free The Vaccine on CBC Radio One

Salk Labs members Olivia Bonardi and Izzy Levine were interviewed about the Free The Vaccine campaign on Breakaway With Alison Brunette, which broadcasts across Quebec on CBC Radio One! Check out Olivia and Izzy’s interviews here at the link that says “June 5, 2020: Free The Vaccine for COVID-19.”

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Op-Ed in STAT News Calls for a “People’s Vaccine,” Mentions Free The Vaccine Campaign

This piece in STAT News discusses the need for a “people’s vaccine” affordable around the world in the broader context of foreign policy and international power. The piece gives a shout out to the Free The Vaccine campaign, pointing out that in addition to advocating for a people’s vaccine, we also “seek to dismantle the biomedical system upon which the Oxford-AstraZeneca deal [which prioritizes access to the vaccine in the U.S. and U.K. over other countries] was built.”

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The New Republic Addresses the Broken R&D System, Mentions UAEM’s Work on COVID Vaccine

This piece in The New Republic is a comprehensive look at our biomedical R&D system, how it has failed people in the pandemic, and how it might be reimagined to better serve public health needs. The piece quotes a number of experts on access to medicines, including our very own Free The Vaccine project manager and UAEM Executive Director, Merith Basey!

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America Dissected Podcast covers our campaign

America Dissected is a Crooked Media podcast looking at the COVID-19 global pandemic.

How did we get here? What went wrong? What do we do about it now? In season 2, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a physician and former city health commissioner, will keep you updated on what you need to know about COVID-19, what led us to this crisis in the first place, and what policies can lead us out.

In this episode Dr. El-Sayed talks with our own Merith Basey.

Abdul dissects how COVID19 is forcing us to deal with how interconnected our world is, whether we like it or not. Then he speaks with Oussama Mezoui with the international aid organization Penny Appeal and Merith Basey of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

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In the Media

Campaign featured on “The Plague” podcast

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 participant, L.M. Bogad, has a new podcast called The Plague. Check out episode three with Merith Basey, one of the leads of the Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign.


I’m pleased to announce the launch of my podcast, THE PLAGUE. It’s a podcast where we look, not just at the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but at our nation’s home-made plagues, plagues created by human socioeconomic systems, that make the coronavirus more virulent and dangerous.