Access Champions

Highlights from the Week 10 Mission: Spheres of Influence

This week, our participants thought about the spheres of influence for our campaign and how they might give people in each sphere the opportunity to get involved with their actions. As part of this mission, they also refined the posters they’ve been working on for the past couple weeks! Here’s a graphic that illustrates what we mean by spheres of influence:

Let’s take a look at how some of our squads interpreted this week’s mission!

The Narlugas Are Born

First off, we have a brand new lab: the Narlugas, who are working to create a physical and virtual exhibition of the posters our participants are making, which will help to increase our engagement with the public! In lab founder Laura Holzman’s words:

We’re creating a Free the Vaccine exhibition to tell a story about artistic activism and access to medicines in a way that invites new audiences to harness their own power to promote equity.

We’re envisioning a virtual traveling exhibition with optional physical components that many venues can host at once. Our primary audience is university communities. We want to create space for serious, difficult conversations about how universities can make a big difference in making medicine more affordable and accessible. We’re also providing a more immediate resource: reliable, substantive content that campus galleries can host for free as they navigate new policies related to in-person and virtual programming.

As we try to increase public support for our campaign, the virtual exhibition will help us reach a wider audience and tap into university students and faculty, who have a stake in and leverage over institutional licensing policies.

The Boars Get Animated

The Boars are almost finished with this great video targeting CureVac, which they hope to edit and use for other targets as well! While you won’t understand the video unless you know German, I think you’ll agree that the animation is super adorable and high quality:

I love this action because not only does it have the potential to capture the attention of targets, but it’s a great video to disseminate to the public as well. The team is currently thinking of the best way to share the video with employees at CureVac and other research institutes!

The Bisons Make Connections

We’d like to share the really interesting approach that the Bisons have taken at Indiana University. While many of our squads have made researchers their primary targets, the Bisons have focused on building relationships with the Indiana University library, because they’re already involved with open access efforts, and with the university’s Public Relations department, which is working to promote its COVID-19 research. By building a coalition of support within various branches of the university, they’re thinking more broadly about their circles of influence and the types of groups that can give them leverage in the campaign.

And Now, Posters…

We shared some last week, but we’re excited to share these new visuals coming out of our Labs! We look forward to showing these posters and more to a broad audience once our traveling gallery is established.

This one is so simple, but really tugs at the heartstrings and gets our message across so effectively.
We love how the visuals created for the Otter lab’s playing cards can be repurposed and used as posters!

Week 10: What’s happening in the world of the vaccine?

Dexamethasone Trials Yield Positive Results

An Oxford trial showed that treatment with the steroid drug dexamethasone cut the risk of death from 40% to 28% for patients on ventilators and from 25% to 20% for patients treated with oxygen. Dexamethasone is the first drug shown to significantly reduce deaths due to coronavirus, and it is also available as a relatively inexpensive generic drug.

The Chamber of Commerce Lobbying Group Calls for Transparency in Vaccine Licensing

The United States Chamber of Commerce, a large conservative-oriented business lobbying group, has called for increased transparency in the licensing agreements between universities and pharmaceutical companies working on a coronavirus vaccine. A senior vice president of the Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Center told The Independent that “this is a unique situation and I feel comfortable saying that a higher level of transparency is warranted, especially given the unusual public sector contribution to some of the efforts that are ongoing.” Seeing this stance from a group typically allied with the pharmaceutical industry is encouraging, especially because they highlight the extent of public funding for coronavirus research. However, the Chamber also argued against calls to make coronavirus-related intellectual property freely available, making their recommendations insufficient to ensure affordable access.

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!

Access Champions

Highlights from the Week 9 Mission: Turn Up The Pressure

This week, our participants continued to work on poster designs and powerful visuals to use in their actions! At the same time, they helped each other turn up the pressure on their targets, brainstorming responses to reluctant targets and sharing approaches that work. We have exciting updates coming for you soon on that front, but for now, here’s what some of our teams have been up to this week:

The Dolphins Light A Fire

While the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne declined to sign the Open COVID Pledge, that’s not the end of this story for the Dolphins. The team wrote an excellent response a) highlighting the $17 million in public funding the university has received, according to UAEM’s mapping project, b) asking the university to explain what it has done (if anything) to ensure access, so that we can report this to our global network, and c) reminding the university of our high-profile allies, like Doctors Without Borders, and other universities which have adopted our recommendations, like McGill. Their response will serve as a great model for our other squads to use if conversations with university leadership stall.

The Seals Weave A Story

Meanwhile, our Seal team has seen major progress on their “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Scientists” project, drafting a letter to the researcher Hanneke Schuitemaker and commissioning the artist Onke Truijen to paint her portrait. Their letter to Hanneke includes the beginning of her tale, asking her to complete the story by supporting Free The Vaccine and the Open COVID Pledge! It’s a beautiful way to combine their creative tactic with their strategy for convincing their target. And speaking of beautiful, check out the portrait and book cover in progress.

The Labs Play With Images

Our activists are constantly looking for creative ways to communicate a rather technical issue and connect with people. This project from the Seals makes our argument extremely clear: in the fight against the pandemic, IP and patents “protect” the virus from our prevention and treatment efforts, allowing the pandemic to continue.

Here are some more poster ideas, from across the Salk Labs:


Week 9: What’s happening in the world of the vaccine?

The Medicines for Malaria Venture Launches the COVID Box

On June 10th, the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) announced that they will be providing a set of 80 marketed drugs or compounds with potential activity against COVID-19 to researchers, in exchange for scientists publishing their research in the public domain. This effort will increase data sharing and accelerate open and collaborative research on the virus. We welcome this news!

Public Citizen Releases “The People’s Vaccine” Report

On June 11th, our allies at Public Citizen released an updated report with five case studies on some of the most promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates. The report outlines funding received by each project from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, as well as other public funding sources, and highlights the extent to which the most successful coronavirus vaccine research has been funded by taxpayers. Please read the report, which makes it clear how absurd it would be for these projects to produce anything other than a people’s vaccine, free and available to all.

AstraZeneca Announces First Steps Toward Global Access, But Questions Remain

On June 4th, AstraZeneca announced agreements with Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the Serum Institute of India (SII) which represent the company’s steps toward global access to its vaccine. AstraZeneca reached a $750 million agreement with Gavi and CEPI to provide 300 million doses of the vaccine, in addition to the 400 million they have agreed to provide to the U.S. and U.K. Their licensing deal with SII will supply one billion doses for low-and-middle income countries.

And yet, many more salient questions about access remain unanswered. Does AstraZeneca now have exclusive control over the IP developed at Oxford University, as the licensing agreement with SII seems to imply? What is the actual price the vaccine will be sold for in the U.S., U.K., and low-and-middle income countries? As we have seen in the past, an advance market commitment (AMC) is not necessarily the bold step towards access that companies claim it to be. You can read further about flaws in the AMC model here.

Access Champions Take Action

How-To: An Audio Card Toolkit for Freeing the Vaccine

In past newsletter installments, we’ve talked about the creative idea one of our Seal squads had to send audio cards to targets instead of emails. An email is easy to delete. A beautiful audio card that literally speaks to you? Not so much.

The Seal 1 squad figured out how to make this easy audio card action work, and now, they want to share this resource with you: a toolkit, complete with an example video, on how to make your own card with a hidden audio device that will play your “Free The Vaccine” message.

In the Media

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!

In the Media

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.”

In the Media

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.”


Week 8: What We’re Reading, Black Lives Matter Edition

If you are looking for resources including important petitions, protest and riot safety information, funds to donate to, and ways you can support protests from home…

These two links are an excellent place to start.

If you are looking for mental health resources supporting Black people during this time…

We hope this list of resources will be helpful to you.

If you are interested in an anti-racism toolkit designed for white allies…

Some of our members have found this document helpful.

If you are curious about proposed alternatives to the current policing and prison systems…

You may be interested in these resources created and compiled by the organization Critical Resistance, and this blog run by abolitionist activist Mariame Kaba.

While this list of resources is of course not comprehensive, we hope some will find it helpful. As a group that includes both Black activists and non-Black allies, we remain committed to reading, learning, and organizing for justice and equality.

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