Negotiations on the TRIPS Waiver

The European Parliament voted in favour of starting negotiations on the TRIPS Waiver!

Yesterday, a resolution was adopted with consensus to encourage the European Commission to continue and support the talks in the World Trade Organisation on the TRIPS Waiver. This is a non-binding advice to the European Commission but  we still need to keep the pressure on!

Retweet our allies to recognize this new win and increase pressure on the Commission:
European Member states gather during a European Council on 24-25 June.

Already announced, but to celebrate again: president Macron declared his support for the TRIPS Waiver, after meeting with a group of French NGO’s. Big congrats to you!
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Analyses on WTO TRIPS Council by Third World Network
The European Union, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Korea reiterated their opposition to waiving TRIPS provisions as a response to COVID-19 and positioned themselves in strong support to the EU’s communication of 4 June – Urgent trade policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis: Intellectual Property (IP/C/W/680). This proposal calls for limiting export restrictions, supporting the expansion of production and facilitating the use of current compulsory licensing provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), particularly by waiving the requirement to negotiate with the right holder of the vaccine patent.

The European Union said to be ready to immediately start a discussion based on the proposal set out in that communication and announced its intention to follow up with a more elaborated text. At the same time, the EU is ready to continue discussing the revised waiver proposal in the course of additional meetings of the TRIPS Council, the EU delegate added. The final objective must be finding a way forward in the discussion on the role of intellectual property in enhancing access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics and proceed with concrete, short and medium term solutions to enhance universal access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics at affordable prices.

The EU agreed that intellectual property rights (IPRs) should not stand in the way of deploying existing capacity, or creating new capacity, or of ensuring that access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics is equitable, but noted that it is possible to achieve this objective while at the same time maintaining the protection required for incentivizing technology transfer and investment in innovation, so that members can fight against new strains of COVID-19 and any future diseases.

The EU proposed that as part of this discussion WTO members agree as soon as possible on the global trade initiative for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, encompassing three components: trade facilitation and disciplines on export restrictions; concrete actions to expand production and ensure supply of vaccines at affordable prices to low- and middle-income countries during the pandemic; and further clarification and facilitation of TRIPS Agreement flexibilities, relating to compulsory licenses.


We Need to Vaccinate the World

Billions of impoverished people are waiting in line for COVID-19 vaccines, while the virus spreads largely unchecked and mutating rapidly. There is no end in sight anywhere, until everyone, everywhere has access to a safe, free vaccine. Please help us call on Joe Biden to launch a plan to get the vaccines our tax money paid to invent to everyone, everywhere. Want to know more? Check out the longer expert letter here.


Vaccinating the World

Philanthropy Has an Unparalleled Opportunity to Build an Equitable Global Health System — and Vaccinate the World

By Priti Krishtel

June 2, 2021

During my nearly two decades in public health, I have never seen a moment richer with opportunity to fundamentally rebuild our global health system. The recent stunning announcement that the Biden administration would waive intellectual-property rights for the Covid-19 vaccine marked a sea change in the fight for a more equitable and just approach to global health.

It also marked a once-in-a-generation opportunity for philanthropy to be part of reshaping the global health system into one that recognizes that none of us are safe and healthy until all of us are safe and healthy.

The need for such a shift couldn’t be clearer. As Americans get vaccinated and the country starts to reopen, much of the world is experiencing one of the most devastating surges yet of the pandemic. Just in the past week, 41,000 people died in India and Brazil alone. For me, this is personal. I’ve already lost multiple family members in India to Covid-19, and more of my loved ones in India are battling the virus right now.

Vaccines and other lifesaving medical products are not reaching the vast majority of people on the planet. This is the utterly predictable consequence of a monopolistic research and development system, in which companies use the intellectual-property system to control the market, leaving the power to shape the pandemic response in the hands of a few private players.

Ensuring equitable access to the vaccine should have been integrated into every step of the process from the beginning. Imagine how many lives might have been saved if government and philanthropic investments in vaccine development had been matched by investments aimed at ensuring vaccines were accessible in every corner of the world.

Rather than continuing to support an elitist global health system built on a legacy of structural racism, philanthropy needs to focus its attention and investments on movements worldwide that will ensure the Biden administration’s intellectual property waiver quickly translates into more vaccine availability, while creating structural changes that save lives now and during future pandemics.

The organization I co-founded, the Initiative for Medicines, Access, & Knowledge, has fought for years for global equity in medicine access. We know that creating a global health system that works for everyone must rectify the power imbalance between those influencing the policy decisions and those who are most affected by them.

Our movement has the expertise, the leaders, and the plan. What we are missing is the fuel.

To transform our global health system, we need philanthropy to invest in advocacy, education, and movement building in a much bigger way than it has to date. For grant makers engaged in the much-needed conversation about decolonizing philanthropy, I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is.

Invest in diverse leaders. 

The current system is literally killing the nonprivileged, who are overwhelmingly people of color. In the United States, Indigenous and Black Americans have faced the highest death tolls from Covid-19. The same is true across the globe, where predominantly nonwhite populations are suffering most. For too long, we’ve allowed philanthropists such as Bill Gates to shape the response to global health care with the same monopolistic model that built his corporate profits. That approach is failing us and must be rejected if we are ever to achieve true equity in global health.

Instead of leaving decisions about health and equity to wealthy business leaders, foundations should diversify their funding approach to include those with direct experience in the most affected communities. They can start by providing multiyear, general operating support to organizations working to replace the current monopolistic system with one focused on providing worldwide access to medicines and vaccines.

This includes groups such as the student-driven Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, which successfully advocated for more than 30 medical research institutions to change their patent and licensing policies, resulting in increased global access to medicines. Through its Covid-19 #freethevaccine campaign, the organization is developing a pipeline of young Black and brown public-health leaders fighting for equitable vaccine access. Alumni of the organization include renowned activist Ady Barkan and many others who have gone on to become leaders in public health.

Universities Allied for Essential Medicines is part of a larger movement that is maintaining pressure on the Biden administration and other country governments to quickly agree upon the terms of the World Health Organization’s intellectual-property waiver for Covid-19 medical products and to expedite sharing of critical knowledge and resources to increase vaccine supply and availability. The movement is also pushing for policies that would fundamentally change the rules of the game — for example, ensuring that federally supported research and development, such as the $2.5 billion in taxpayer dollars that bankrolled the Moderna vaccine, are shared as a rule, not an exception.

Give up a nationalistic approach to solving global problems. 

Creating systemic change will not happen if American philanthropy, which holds the overwhelming bulk of charitable assets globally, dictates a top-down, America-first vision for public health to the rest of the world — or barely engages in international grant making at all.

Covid-19 showed us how artificial our borders really are, especially when it comes to the spread of a deadly virus. Yet American-based organizations have received a staggering 56 percent of the nearly $24 billion in global philanthropic grants to date, even though the United Statesaccounts for just 19 percent of Covid-19 cases and 17 percent of deaths. This is both inequitable and shortsighted. Much of the world won’t have access to vaccines until 2023. In the meantime, variants will continue to emerge and make their way to America — posing an ongoing threat even for countries whose populations are vaccinated.

American philanthropy can help by supporting nonprofits across the globe that are addressing immediate needs in hard-hit communities. For example, the Health Justice Initiative, which was founded during the pandemic by South African activist lawyer Fatima Hassan, has successfully used the courts in that country to create greater government and corporate transparency and accountability in Covid-19 vaccine access. Right now, the group is using legal and advocacy strategies to regulate pricing for coronavirus treatments.

Human rights lawyers like Hassan could change the course of the pandemic around the world by deploying legal tools to address human-rights violations stemming from inequitable access to vaccines, while also pushing for structural reforms that would improve the response to future pandemics.

Invest in radical shifts to democratize global health. 

To ensure equity, we need to fix the entirety of a global system that allows private interests to drive decisions about health.

We must democratize, localize, and decentralize every stage of the process — from drug development to distribution. My organization has built a participatory model to facilitate such structural change, beginning this year with a focus on the patent and intellectual-property system. We will bring together an interdisciplinary group, including those from affected communities, scientists, drug-company investors, policy makers, journalists, patent lawyers, movement leaders, and patients. Through this process, we will build greater understanding between people with different views about the role of patents in society, ultimately creating a blueprint for reform that has at its center the perspective of affected communities.

This is a moment of unparalleled opportunity in the global-health movement, and philanthropy can play a critical role in bringing it to fruition. It’s time for grant makers to reject the status quo that has failed too many for too long and help us replace it with a system that recognizes our obligation to provide every human being with the medical treatments and vaccines we all need and deserve.

Priti Krishtel is a co-founder and a co-executive director of the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge. @pritikrishtel


TRIPS Waiver Petition Letter

With PSI’s leadership and support, we are trying to get over 1000 health workers from India and South Africa to write to the G7 leaders (most importantly Merkel and Johnson) calling on them to support the TRIPS waiver. With the governments of India and South Africa represented at the summit we felt it was important that health worker voices from these countries were heard.

Please sign this letter and help by sharing this sign on letter as widely as possible in places you think will reach health workers in those countries.

Click here: http://petition-letter?lang=en&id=11847&showLogin=true


Season 3 of Free the Vaccine: It’s a wrap!

We finished up Season 3 of Free the Vaccine on May 12! It was an exciting season as the campaign expanded focus from targeting universities to sign the Open Covid Pledge to also pressuring public institutions and officials to support a waiver of patent monopolies at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to join the COVID-19 Technologies Access Pool (C-TAP). Further, Free the Vaccine campaigners worked to reach out to the media and the public at large to promote accurate reporting vaccine research and development and to increase people’s confidence in taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

Thanks to everyone who was part of this round of Free the Vaccine, who supported the campaign and participants, and who will stay the course for global vaccine equity!


Rally for a People’s Vaccine at AstraZeneca

Global Justice Now is organizing protests outside of AstraZeneca’s Annual General Meeting (head office) in Cambridge and at the company’s second largest UK site in Macclesfield on Tuesday 11 May.

These protests are a continuation of the People’s Vaccine Week(s!) of action to target pharmaceutical corporations shareholder meetings over April and May to put pressure on them to join C-TAP.

If you are in the UK, please join in Macclesfield, in Cambridge, or in Oxford!

There will be food, music, speakers and open-air workshops as we demand a People’s Vaccine for all countries – not just the richest ones. Both protests will be COVID-safe and be staffed with legal observers.

Global Justice Now also did an insider action on March 30 at AstraZeneca’s online live shareholder question and answer session with an AZ vaccine volunteer who asked the company to join C-TAP. The insider action is covered here.


A win for vaccine equity!

It happened.

Our movement for vaccine equity saw a huge win when the Biden Administration announced, on May 5, that it would support a waiver of the TRIPS agreement for COVID-19 vaccines at the WTO. It means that the US and other governments–usually beholden to pharmaceutical corporation profit motives–are seeing the need for global solidarity and action to end the unjust suffering and death brought on by nationalistic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This incredible breakthrough has come with the organizing and advocacy of a coalition of organizations across the globe. Free the Vaccine for COVID-19, through UAEM and C4AA, brought together artists, access to medicines advocates, and really just anybody who saw early on the need to raise the alarm that access to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics would be hindered by corporate greed and patent monopolies.

Free the Vaccine campaign project managers reflected on how it feels and what it means to them to see this their efforts as part of this collective and global coalition have moved needle toward vaccine equity at the highest levels:

The [rally for vaccine access in Washington, DC] was amazing and almost surreal in how the news [of the Administration’s decision] was announced in the middle of our rally. People were cheering and hugging there was a lot of emotion in the atmosphere. In the context of Free the Vaccine, it was really cool to be ahead of the curve and see the power we have in our advocacy. Definitely, the moment was pushed by events happening in India, but we won something that was as a result of our actions all the calls we made, rallies we held, etc. We supported [a TRIPS waiver] before it was cool, before a lot of government officials threw their support behind it, and that feels good. We were always on the right side of history and shows that we fight the good fight!!!

Tayyiaba Farooq

It’s so amazing and surreal to see our work making a difference and impacting lives on a global scale in real-time. This work can be challenging since big wins don’t come around too often and you don’t know how close you are until you get there, but when you do get there and get that win it feels so amazing to know that your message is being seen and heard. It’s gratifying that our efforts are making an impact.

Maanasa Gurram

Hearing the news, it almost felt like someone was playing a joke on us! We’ve been working towards a breakthrough like this for months, and even before the waiver was proposed we were wishing for something like it – something ground-breaking enough to make the difference needed. This is a GIGANTIC leap forward in the right direction. Finally the goal we’ve been striving for feels like a very real possibility – vaccine equity’.

Poppy Hosford

I’ve been so overwhelmed and grateful in the BEST way since the historic moment yesterday afternoon. It feels so surreal that our advocacy efforts from the past three seasons/past year has paid off! I just hope the bureaucratic rigamarole doesn’t take too long and that this will pave the way for universities like my own, UCLA, to sign onto the OCP/C-TAP and bring about a more equitable end to the pandemic in a quicker manner!


Avani Reddy

When I heard the news I was shocked that this actually happened, but I also felt like I was sharing in the success of the entire campaign. As part of the [campaign targeting universities] I felt kind of less responsible as I’m also in Canada, but it was such a massive success that it felt like the victory flowed throughout the entire campaign and each individual contributed to it.

Declan Sakuls

In general, when I get involved in activism I never expect to see results immediately – in fact, I don’t expect to see results on the order of systemic change at all, and simply hope that my contributions will add on to a collective rhetoric in some small, abstract way. So hearing about the Biden-Harris administration’s decision to support the TRIPS waiver while in front of the Capitol, wearing a Care Bear costume, and waving a banner demanding that they do just that was, in a word, surreal. I think it’s very rare to be able to see tangible policy change at the moment it’s happening, so it was both incredibly exciting and incredibly humbling to be a part of the rally yesterday and to see our vision coming to life in real time.

Defne Yorgancioglu
Take Action

Call members of Congress and ask them to support the TRIPS waiver

The devastation in India could have been avoided had the TRIPS waiver been passed already. We will continue to see destruction and loss of life on a global scale if we do not make it clear to the Biden Administration that they need to support the TRIPS waiver.

Many Representatives throughout the country have come out in support of the TRIPS Waiver. We need Representatives Nanette Barragán and Linda Sanchez to sign on to an important letter circulating among House Democrats in support of the TRIPS waiver. They need to hear that people all over the country want them to support the TRIPS waiver.

Please call both their DC offices and in district offices Monday, May 3, and follow the script below.


Rep. Nanette Barragán

  • DC Office: 202-225-8220
  • District Office: 310-831-1799

Rep. Linda Sanchez

  • DC Office: 202-225-6676
  • District Office: 562-860-5050


Leave a voice message if no one picks up

Hi, my name is <NAME>,

I’m calling to urge Representative <CONGRESSPERSON> to sign onto the Schakowsky, Blumenauer and DeLauro letter in support of the TRIPS Waiver.

This waiver is critical in the global fight against the pandemic, and it is important that your boss signs this letter today.

<You will likely be asked for your name and contact information>

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