Nov 25, 2020

How it's going with global access to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Funk Rally in DC - Photo: Nicolas Moreland
Funk Rally in DC - Photo: Nicolas Moreland

As UAEM chapters across Europe have been leading activities for Access to Medicines Week, our labs at Free the Vaccine for COVID-19 campaign continue to push towards their goals to ensure universities are doing everything within their power to curb the pandemic. In light of recent news, we thought it critical to mention a few take-aways with regard to the latest vaccine news.

While we acknowledge the reports from pharmaceutical corporations including Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna that their vaccines appear to be more than 90% effective, which is encouraging, we also know that a vaccine will not be able to do its job if people cannot access it,  afford to pay for it or are afraid to take it. Furthermore, unless scientists are able to fully review the data, we will not yet be able to determine the vaccine’s true efficacy and safety long-term. The data for the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is the only group so far to publish data in a scientific journal and doesn't require an extra-cold chain for storage which is more promising for ensuring access in rural or resource poor areas.  

Earlier this year our Free the Vaccine team was invited to join Oxfam, UNAIDS and other organizations to be part of their "People's Vaccine" campaign.  Our shared call for a "People's Vaccine" that "belongs to the world" to echo the words of Jonas Salk, the scientist who discovered the polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh, is critical to ensure people and populations are not left behind in terms of access to a vaccine, especially one that is publicly-funded. The US government for example funded 100% of Moderna’s project to bring the vaccine to the U.S. FDA for approval. Taxpayers have also already paid twice since the Trump administration paid Moderna an additional $1.5 billion to secure doses in advance. Further, the Pfizer vaccine was made in partnership with BioNTech, a German drug company that received €375 million from the German government in public funds, amongst other tax relief.

A few weeks ago our Pittsburgh lab led a set of creative actions inspired by Jonas Salk to urge the University to follow Dr Salk's lead. Dr. Salk's refusal to profit from the vaccine saved thousands and thousands of lives. The message seems to be working as the Lab has recently held promising meetings with university leadership who are concerned about this issue and keen to engage further. Similar discussions are happening across other university campuses urging their institutions to be on the right side of history with regard to who will get access to a vaccine,  treatment or test developed in their labs. 

In Latin America, fake news around covid-19 and health technologies to face it have been playing an important role on the population's perception about the importance of a vaccine. UAEM Latin America, for the first time as a region, is currently investigating how citizens in different Latin American countries feel about the covid-19 vaccines efficacy, safety, importance and if they think price and access will be an issue. The region accounts for 1 in every 3 deaths from covid-19 in the world. However, according to Oxfam, rich countries where 13% of the global population live have bought, in advance, 51% of the doses of the vaccine candidates. That is why an initiative as the TRIPS waiver proposed by South Africa and India, which prevents rich countries from threatening countries struggling to ensure access to vaccines and other health technologies in terms of intellectual property rights, is so important. While Argentina is supporting the initiative, Brazil is not - despite the country's historically diplomatic role in advocating for the defense of the right to health over intellectual property rights. A letter written by some Brazilian civil society organizations, including UAEM Brasil, and signed by more than 65 entities and 1.4 thousand citizens calls WTO's member states and the global community to support the waiver.

As the work continues, don't miss out all that is going on creatively -  swing by our UAEM instagram page and our online art exhibit with all the creations coming out of the campaign.

Stay safe, stay well! 

PS Don't forget to mark your calendars for next Tuesday December 1st - World AIDS Day and Giving Tuesday! We will be competing for the most number of unique donations! Join us and help support for the fight for global equity in access to medicines!

Salk's demand
Salk's demand
The ghost of Jonas Salk
The ghost of Jonas Salk
Funk Rally in Washington DC Photo: Timoteo Murphy
Funk Rally in Washington DC Photo: Timoteo Murphy

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Sep 11, 2020

Season Two of Free the Vaccine coming soon!

Sernah speaks to the crowd (photo Ashley Walton)
Sernah speaks to the crowd (photo Ashley Walton)

Greetings!

A few weeks ago UAEM and the Center for Artistic Activism hit our $10,000 target in support of our ongoing Free the Vaccine for Covid-19 campaign. And we have YOU to thank for!

With your support,  "Season 2" of our Free the Vaccine campaign will very soon be launched. Applications are already closed but if you or someone in your network are interested in helping us do our part in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic as quickly as possible, please contact us!

We know that Intellectual Property (IP) rights on life-saving medicines prevent access for millions of people around the world, and we have already seen universities and pharmaceutical corporations favour profit over people, even in a global pandemic. We want to make sure that universities and publicly-funded research institutions are leading the charge in ensuring global access with any new diagnostics, treatments and an eventual vaccine(s) developed on their campuses with public funds.

On Friday August 28th, around a hundred scientists, community members, and health justice activists from Free the Vaccine and other allied groups rallied at the headquarters of Moderna Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA to demand that Moderna sign the Open COVID Pledge, commit its COVID-19 technologies to the COVID Technology Access Pool, and price its experimental vaccine candidate at cost. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate is being developed entirely with public funds and the corporation has received almost $1 billion in taxpayer funding for its COVID-19 vaccine development since the start of the pandemic, but has failed to disclose government financial support in its patent applications. Moderna was forced to put out a statement in response but failed to address our demands.

You can further support us by spreading the word about our work or following us on social media via #freethevaccine! If you missed the recent carnival protest in London, UK you can check our the video here.

Join us! We'll be sharing more soon!

Free the Vaccine Protest (photo Ashley Walton)
Free the Vaccine Protest (photo Ashley Walton)
Free the Vaccine Protest 2 (photo Ashley Walton)
Free the Vaccine Protest 2 (photo Ashley Walton)
Jun 15, 2020

Freeing the vaccine for Covid-19

Global Map of Free the Vaccine participants
Global Map of Free the Vaccine participants

The last few months have been exceptionally fast-paced, furious and focused. With the arrival of Covid-19, UAEM has adapted in a number of ways in the last few months. Many of our student volunteers returned home from their university campuses and began online classes. Our European Conference, scheduled in April, was cancelled and our plans to participate in the World Health Assembly were postponed. 

Yet, Covid-19 also gave us increased purpose and even more motivation to pursue our work to make medicines accessible to all. We adapted our in-person organising to be online, using all the digital tools within reach to make our voices heard. We are more active than ever with increasing numbers of students reaching out to UAEM with a desire to be part of this fight to end the pandemic. In response, UAEM organized globally and adapted our global campaign to tackle Covid-19.

In March, in conjunction with the Center for Artistic Activism, we launched the Free the Vaccine for Covid-19 campaign with 300 registered participants from 29 countries organizing weekly via online meetings. Our goal is to ensure that publicly-funded diagnostics, therapeutics and the eventual vaccine(s) will be 1) sustainably priced 2) available to all (regardless of insurance or immigration status) and 3) free at the point of delivery. We have already received coverage from the BBC, NewsNight, the New Republic, Stat News and more.

We are currently targeting 50 universities to adopt the Open Covid Pledge and are advancing quickly. In 2 decades since our first victory at Yale University we have achieved policy change at 32 institutions but what we are pushing for now is unprecented. We can't wait to share results in the coming weeks. You can receive instant updates signing up at www.freethevaccine.org

A few weeks ago we also launched our Covid-19 tracker tool monitoring public funds invested into universities leading research into Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Our global team of students worked tirelessly to research, analyze and deliver this new tool that currently covers 13 countries around the world. Doctors without Borders has already commended our work and shared with us how they intend to use the tool for their own advocacy. It will continue to be updated in the coming months.

The last two weeks have also born witness to the US protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN and the uprising around the world taking force behind the movement for Black Lives. As an organization that works to make medicines affordable and accessible around the world, we are deeply aware of the role racism plays in creating and deepening health inequities and disparities. To be health activists we must also be committed to social justice, equality, freedom, equity, and respect. The fight for access to medicines is above all a fight for the most vulnerable among us, and a just healthcare system is one in which Blacks have equal access to the medicines they need to live, survive, and thrive. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted black communities as a result of the social, economic and political systems that perpetuate harm against black people.

Our work at UAEM stems from the basic belief that health is a human right. Additionally, our mission, vision, and values statement reflect our ongoing work and dedication to “non-partisanship, democracy, transparency, solidarity and respect". You can read UAEM North America's statement here.

We hope you are staying well and safe, wherever you are.

Thanks for your continued support, in these uncertain times, it is more important that ever.  

Who we are, What we Do
Who we are, What we Do
UAEM Global Staff
UAEM Global Staff

Links:

 
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