Photos from the D.C. Funk Rally

Photos courtesy of Timoteo Murphy!


South Africa, COVID-19, and the MMR Vaccine

According to Global Citizen, researchers from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS) in South Africa have recently launched a trial to test to see if a vaccine given for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) can serve as an effective defense against COVID-19.

While the new effort is not an attempt to hinder current vaccine research, scientists are hoping to use it to protect individuals, like frontline healthcare workers, who have a higher probability of exposure to the vaccine than most.

Countries involved in this research effort include South Africa, Ghana, Uganda, USA, UK, and more. Read more about the vaccine trial here.


Free the Vaccine News Episode 5

with your host, Tessa Marshall.

News Take Action

10/21: Join Us for a Funk Rally!

What do you get when you put lab coats with a message, 70’s fashion, and brightly-colored formal attire in a room with activists pushing for a People’s Vaccine? A Funk Rally!

Save The Date: October 21st

On October 21st, join us and our allies in Washington D.C. for our first Funk Rally for a COVID-19 Vaccine. The rally will start around 12:30pm EST at 100 Maryland Avenue SW, and end around 4:30pm EST across from the African American History Museum. Join us for a short march to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to demand that all people have access to a tested, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccine. See more information in the flyer above.

The Event

The event will begin with a Moment of Silence and Opening Procession to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 this year. The event will also include a Funk Rally down Independence Avenue. Our goal is to build momentum. We will end with closing remarks at the Washington Monument and a Global Dance Circle! We are rallying to celebrate life and encourage our institutions to do better and provide a People’s Vaccine. Think bright colors — come in your semi-formal, disco, or the fanciest party attire that you can find.

Last but not least — bring your dancing skills, your friends and family, and your masks!

Access Champions News

Meet a Free the Vaccine Participant: Zeph

Zeph has been a visual artist and also an activist for most of their adult life. They came out of a visual arts background and have worked a lot with grassroots social movements. They spend a lot of time in the streets doing creative, direct action! Read more for wisdom from one of our Season 1 and 2 participants!

What does artistic activism mean to you? 

When I think of artistic activism, I think about bringing creative approaches to campaigns— specifically working with social movements that have concrete goals and objectives, and figuring out creative ways to meet those objectives. I also think about ways to bring radical imagining and more artistic methods to build radical imaginations and sustain communities in a way they are able to continue moving forward. They should be able to build the type of world that they want to be in. I think that it can be a larger goal than for a specific campaign; it can be about building those imaginative muscles. 

Why did you choose to join the Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign?  

I joined because I have been following the work of the Center for Artistic Activism for a while, and I was curious as to how they collaborate their methodologies for working with social justice groups. I wanted to participate in their project and I had less connection to the access to medicines movement. The interesting thing about being in the project is working with students who are really committed to access to medicines. Their set of knowledge and skills and their own understanding of the issue— figuring out how I can bring my creative skillset into the picture to bring those things together feels powerful. 

In your eyes, what are some of the most meaningful moments or actions from the campaign so far?

In our first season, the group that I was working with specifically targeted one researcher. We made him a beautiful, customized sleep mask for him as a gift to try to pique his interest. It did not work— one of the lessons we learned was that they put a lot of effort into one individual. For the new efforts in Season 2, we want to reach an individual who is a decision maker at Arizona, but also somebody who has the ability to reach a wider audience. There is a potential to not only move him, but also use the same approach to talk to students, faculty, and staff at ASU who hopefully will have some attachment to the creative tactics they are using. 

Ideally, what do you hope for other participants, and yourself, to get out of the campaign?

I hope that students who are new to creative advocacy get excited about this approach and start applying it to all the interesting work that they are passionate about. The more people that are thinking creatively about how they can achieve the goals that they are imagining, the more effective work will be happening. It is exciting to see other people getting excited about these tools. For me, it is good practice to be thinking about ways to come with the creative toolset and really collaborate with people who are well-versed in the issues. It is a chance to sharpen my collaborative toolkit. 

See some artwork from Zeph’s website below. Check out their website for more!

Access Champions

Atmospheres of the Undead: living with viruses, loneliness, and neoliberalism

Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 member, Caitlin Berrigan, published an essay called “Atmospheres of the Undead: living with viruses, loneliness, and neoliberalism” in a new journal called MARCH.

Setting a price for the cure of HCV was the golden spike that has since emboldened pharmaceutical companies to accelerate ever higher prices for “life-saving” treatments and cures.


Vaccines and Moral Beliefs

This week within the campaign we’ve been discussing moral frameworks and how people think about vaccines, healthcare, masks, and more in terms of right and wrong.

The Center for Artistic Activism led a short lesson on moral frameworks this week, and supplemented it with a recent episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast.

In this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast, we sit down with four experts on vaccines, epidemiology, psychology, and science communication to try and understand how we created so much confusion about COVID-19, and how we can avoid doing so again when a vaccine is ready for widespread, public distribution.

Episode 189 – Why we must use social science to fight misinformation, partisanship, conspiratorial thinking, and general confusion when we finally have a vaccine for COVID-19

While the focus of the episode leans toward vaccine hesitancy, the insights on moral frames provide some excellent starting points for strategy and tactic ideas in our work.

You can find You Are Not So Smart wherever you get podcasts and download episode #189. Or check it out on their site.


Vaccine Nationalism: A Deeper Dive

Throughout the past few weeks, you may have heard us throwing around the term “vaccine nationalism.”  What we at the People’s Vaccine are fighting for is a safe and effective vaccine for everyone, everywhere. Vaccine nationalism defeats this purpose: this is why. 

Vaccine nationalism refers to when countries make efforts to secure supplies of vaccines for their own residents and citizens before they can be made available to other countries. For example, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union have engaged in billions of dollars worth of deals with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca, pharmaceutical companies holding promising vaccine candidates, before the vaccines were even proven to be safe and/or effective. These deals are meant to secure vaccine doses for each respective country, without paying much attention to the impact that these practices can have on countries who cannot afford to give billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies.

A briefing from CBC News referred to the dangers of vaccine nationalism as having the potential to prolong the pandemic by inhibiting the ability of the vaccine to reach individuals who need it most. The Chief of the World Health Organization Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Thursday that vaccine nationalism must be prevented, given that “sharing finite supplies strategically and globally is actually in each country’s interest.” Countermeasures to vaccine nationalism have risen, a prominent one being the COVAX Facility, a global effort to distribute the shots globally while making sure that low- and middle-income countries receive adequate doses as well. 

Read more here if you are interested in learning about either vaccine nationalism or the COVAX Facility. 


Activists demand a ‘Peoples Vaccine’-Moderna Should Free all COVID-19 IP

WASHINGTON, DC–October 9, 2020–Moderna announced yesterday, under pressure from civil society groups including Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 and its allies in their calls for a People’s Vaccine, that it will not enforce patent protections on the pending coronavirus vaccine mRNA-1273. While such actions are a step in the right direction, they are without a doubt being made as a result of financial responsibility to US taxpayers, and the global need to contain and eradicate the virus. This is all a requirement for a People’s Vaccine, a growing global movement requiring that when safe and effective vaccine(s) are available they are produced rapidly at scale and made available for all people everywhere, free of charge. 

In August 2020, Free the Vaccine for COVID-19  and its allies held a protest outside of Moderna’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., to urge the corporation to remove intellectual property rights around their pending coronavirus vaccine which was paid for with US taxpayer dollars, and to commit to signing the OpenCOVID pledge

To date, Moderna has received close to a $1 billion dollars of taxpayer money for COVID vaccine research and development, which doesn’t include the additional $1.5 billion dollars the U.S. government was slated to pay for 300 million vials of the vaccine once it cleared drug trials. Unsurprisingly, big pharma once again was going to rip off the American public and handsomely profit off of the pandemic. 

Despite a corporate press statement from Moderna highlighting the significance of IP rights and its hurdles, “…[we] recognize that intellectual property rights play an important role in encouraging investment in research,” this isn’t enough. Again, the corporation has yet to sign the Open COVID Pledge. The pledge would help prevent coronavirus-related intellectual property rights from being a future barrier to access worldwide.

“Centering patents and profit will only prolong this plague. Moderna must take action now to ensure that their publicly-funded vaccine candidate is sustainably priced and available to all. We cannot defeat this pandemic without global solidarity, and Moderna can play their part by opening up access to their intellectual property and pricing the vaccine sustainably,” says Sernah Essien, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), North America Coordinating Committee Member and a Free The Vaccine Project Manager. 

In addition to urging Moderna to sign the Open COVID Pledge, the Free the Vaccine campaign is calling on the corporation to commit to sharing all rights and knowledge patent to the World Health’s Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) for as long as is necessary to end the pandemic. Any decision to the contrary will lead to further unnecessary deaths and vaccine apartheid where only high income countries have priority access.

“We urgently need a People’s Vaccine: available to everyone, everywhere free of charge” says Merith Basey, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Executive Director, North America. “Any monopolies on a vaccine will only keep prices artificially high and leaving entire nations at risk of vaccine apartheid. No one will be safe until we are all safe and this will be the most efficient way to end the pandemic as quickly as possible”.


Free the Vaccine News Episode 4

with your host, Tessa Marshall.