Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine


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Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)  

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Students and Activists Urge Arizona State University’s President Crow to Sign Open COVID Pledge for a People’s Vaccine

WASHINGTON, DC–December 10, 2020 — “…Big Pharma is waiting for a public discovery, so they can make big money off the COVID recovery…If Big Pharma’s vaccine costs a whole lot, the haves will have it; the have-nots will not.” Members of the Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign released a sneak preview of a Dr. Seuss children’s inspired book to draw attention to the coronavirus vaccinations and its related health justice issues. 

In the past several weeks, Moderna and Pfizer both announced that their respective vaccines are over 90 percent effective in preventing exposure to COVID-19. They are awaiting FDA emergency authorization to begin inoculating Americans. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! With a Free Vaccine! is sending a message to COVID-19 vaccine response key players: no one should have to pay for it a second time when the vaccine hits the market. This message also extends to universities where the vast majority of research on inoculation is being developed. To date, taxpayers have contributed nearly $10 billion dollars to vaccine development per the HHS website. 

“What many people don’t realize is that they’ve already paid for the COVID-19 vaccine. Much of the research that big pharmaceutical companies claim as the reason for charging such high prices is actually publicly funded,” said Brittany Herrick, MPH, member of Free the Vaccine and Public Health Advocate with the Health Global Access Project (Health GAP).

Members of the campaign are specifically targeting Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Ariz., as the university has announced they are committed to conducting critical research on COVID-19 testing and vaccines. The decisions made by the university will contribute to coronavirus treatment, discoveries, and impact the distribution of treatments in the ASU and greater Tempe/Phoenix communities. 

Activists and students from Free the Vaccine are urging ASU President, Dr. Michael Crow, to sign the Open COVID Pledge, obligating the university to freely share intellectual property that the university holds or develops that could help end the COVID-19 pandemic and minimize any further devastation due to the illness. “By signing the Open COVID Pledge, Dr. Michael Crow has the opportunity to show the world that Arizona State University is committed to being at the forefront of the movement to end the COVID-19 pandemic and willing to make history as the first university to make this pledge,” said Shreya Kosuru, honors student at Arizona State University and member of Free the Vaccine.

The project Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine, is an homage to Dr. Seuss’ classic Oh, the Places You’ll Go!. The childhood favorite is enjoyed by children around the world and it’s the message now is to advance humanity, compassion, and make ASU’s intellectual property open to all to aid in eradicating the coronavirus. “Like so many people, we were inspired by the story of Dr. Jonas Salk. He discovered the polio vaccine and refused to patent it, making it possible to eliminate the threat of Polio in all but a few remaining countries,” said Zeph Fishlyn, member of Free The Vaccine. Salk is a pioneer and revered scientist who is best admired and known for putting public health and humanity above and beyond the need to make millions during the Polio epidemic.

The sneak preview of ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go…With a Free Vaccine’ can be found in the exhibit on YouTube. The entire project is expected to be released on Free the Vaccine website before the end of the year. 


Free The Vaccine for COVID-19 is a global campaign launched by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) and the Center for Artistic Activism (C4AA), working to ensure that tax-payer funded coronavirus vaccines are sustainably priced, available to all, and free at the point of delivery. Launched in March 2020, it’s in its second round of university student-led activism supported by medical professionals and allies with over 300 participants from 30 countries. To learn more, go to 

The Open COVID Pledge calls on research universities, institutions, and pharmaceutical companies to make their vaccine(s), treatment(s), therapeutic(s), and computer software freely available in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pledge is a coalition of researchers, scientists, academics, and lawyers working to accelerate the rapid development and deployment of necessary aid and equipment to control the transmission of the coronavirus. The project is now led by Creative Commons. 


A call for a Peoples Vaccine

Kymone Freeman of WeActRadio addresses the crowd at the Funk Rally outside Health and Human Services in Washington, DC on October 21st (Photo Credit: Nicolas Moreland)

Kymone Freeman from WeActRadio shared the need for a Peoples Vaccine at the DC Day of Reflection produced by DC Jazz Fest in remembrance of the lives lost to COVID-19 so far in the pandemic. Kymone’s call to action for a “Peoples Vaccine” is one shared by the Peoples Vaccine Alliance (our campaign is a lead member) in which we call for vaccines that are safe, effective, available to all and free for all those who choose to take them, wherever they are in the world. As numbers of deaths from COVID-19 rise in the USA and all over the world, this growing global cry, supported by Nobel Laureates and many former world leaders, is needed now more than ever if we are to curb the pandemic as quickly as possible.

In the Media

Free the Vaccine lead highlights for NBC how racial disparities create barriers to access for the COVID-19 vaccine

“Without considering racial equity, we deepen the cracks that systemic racism has already created in our health care system,” said Sernah Essien.


The Implications of Pre-Ordering Vaccines

Image from Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The COVID-19 vaccine may almost be here, but the race is far from over. Countries have scrambled to secure doses for their populations, while often neglecting the needs of low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). As a result, LMICs have been placed last on the waiting list, with the Duke Global Health Innovation Center predicting they may have to wait until 2023 or 2024 for vaccination.

Nature reports that over 10 billion doses for the vaccine have been pre-ordered, which includes most of the 2021 manufacturing capacity for all three leading candidates (AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna).

Although they account for only around 13% of the world’s population, 27 member states of the EU along with five rich countries have pre-ordered about 1/2 of this global supply. Canada alone has pre-ordered almost 9 doses of the vaccine per person, followed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union in terms of the number of pre-ordered doses. Vaccine hoarding by rich countries leaves the world’s most vulnerable without access, raising questions on equitable vaccine allocation. Read more on Nature News here.


The History of mRNA Vaccines

Image from STAT News

With progress on the vaccine front making the news over the past few weeks, we can look to the history of mRNA vaccines to highlight the importance of a free vaccine. While no public statements on ensuring global access to the COVID-19 vaccine have been made, Pfizer has made sure to note that their vaccine was developed with no public funding.

Nevertheless, the Pfizer vaccine is a joint effort with the German company BioNTech, who did accept public funding for the research and development of the vaccine candidate. In addition, the technology behind Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was first developed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin, an institution that receives public funding, in 1990.

While the idea was dismissed upon its discovery, it has become the leading technology in the COVID-19 vaccine race, used as the backbone for both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. Read more from STAT News here.


Designing Vaccines for People, Not Profits

Critical read on the need for a People’s Vaccine by Mariana Mazzucato, Els Torrele and Henry Lishi Li (available in multiple languages) in Project Syndicate.

Designing Vaccines for People, Not Profits


To Stockpile or To Share?

Washington Post reports that the new frontier of vaccine diplomacy can be characterized by two paths: stockpile or share. While entities like the United States and the European Union have been focusing on stockpiling vaccines for their respective populations, other countries, such as China and Russia, have been focusing on sharing their vaccine(s) with other entities around the world. The issue of vaccine distribution and allocation has quickly become a leverage point in diplomacy, which will have significant impacts on distribution equity.

“There are critical questions about safety and efficacy — or even how much each country can produce. But, for the moment, those questions are overshadowed in a seller’s market.”

Read more about the implications of vaccine diplomacy on global public health here.

News Take Action

Register Now: Vaccine Allocation and Social Justice

On December 4th and 9th, 2020, several organizations are collaborating to host the event: Vaccine Allocation and Social Justice. Open to all, the purpose of the event is to share concrete steps on how to improve the chances of equitable vaccine allocation. The event will include multiple sessions which different focuses, including challenges in distribution, legal ways of allocating vaccines equitably, and implementing equity.

“A particular focus is on ensuring that the needs of vulnerable groups whose communities often experienced—and experience—structural racism and other forms of systemic injustice are central, rather than, as too often in the past, peripheral.”

The participating hosts include Ariadne Labs, Boston College, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the International Society for Priorities in Health, MIT Economics, the O’Neill Institute, and the University of Pennsylvania.

More information and registration for this virtual event can be found here.

In the Media

Solidarity Live! with Merith Basey

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.

🔈 Download Audio only: 50MB MP3 file


ANTICOV: A Continental Collaboration

Image from the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

Today, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) announced in a press release that thirteen countries in Africa, along with an international network of research institutions, are launching the largest clinical trial in Africa for mild-to-moderate patients. DNDi is a global non-profit drug research and development (R&D) group that has extensive partnerships in Africa.

“We welcome the ANTICOV trial led by African doctors because it will help answer one of our most pressing questions: With limited intensive care facilities in Africa, can we treat people for COVID-19 earlier and stop our hospitals from being overwhelmed?’ – Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The purpose of the ANTICOV trial is to identify early treatments that can prevent the progression of COVID-19 to a severe form of the disease, potentially limiting its transmission. Read more about the trial and institutions participating in the novel effort here.