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.
Check out the work of our Season 2 Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 participants from Australia in the following video!
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!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!