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Letter: 100 High-Level Leaders Call on Biden to Make COVID-19 Vaccine a People’s Vaccine

Public Health, Political, Economic Leaders and Artists Release Public Letter Demanding a COVID-19 Vaccine Be Free and Available to All

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, more than 100 high-level leaders from public health, faith-based, racial justice and labor organizations joined former lawmakers, economists and artists to sign a public letter calling on President-elect Joe Biden to make the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine a People’s Vaccine: a global public good, freely and fairly available to all, prioritizing those most in need here at home and around the world.

“The U.S. government has the capacity and the authority under existing law to treat COVID-19 vaccines as global public goods,” said Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines group who co-led the signature effort. “The U.S. can significantly expand manufacturing under the Defense Production Act, license and share technology and teach the world to make safe and effective vaccines, saving countless lives in the process. The alternative is a form of global vaccine apartheid, where billions of people in developing countries wait several years for vaccine access, compromising economic and political stability in the process. The people’s vaccine proposal is a singular opportunity to restore U.S. global leadership, at this time of humanity’s greatest need.”

The public letter comes as the leading vaccine candidates have already or will prepare to apply for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Signers include philanthropists Abigail Disney and Chelsea Clinton, actors Alyssa Milano, Aisha Tyler, Maz Jobrani, and Forest Whitaker, professors Joseph Stiglitz and Noam Chomsky, activist Ady Barkan and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

“A safe, effective and accessible COVID-19 vaccine is vital to bring an end to today’s dual economic and health crisis – so our families are safe, so people can get back to work, so we can live our lives again,” the letter says. “No one anywhere is safe from this disease until everyone everywhere is safe.”

As scientists deliver the breakthroughs needed for the COVID-19 vaccine, all vaccines must be made in quantities that ensure everyone, everywhere can be protected. Despite largely being funded by public money, pharmaceutical companies have not made the necessary commitments to ensure global production and global access. In fact, many have indicated that they intend to profit off their sale, and the highest bidders are already reserving the limited quantities that individual manufacturers can produce. The scarcity this competition creates means the COVID-19 crisis could be around for much longer than if a vaccine was made widely available to all.

The group calls on Biden to:

  1. Guarantee all vaccines are affordable to ensure that the U.S. and other governments can provide protection to people for free;
  2. Ensure full transparency and accountability over U.S. funding for the development of COVID-19 vaccines;
  3. Ensure that companies and research institutions share vaccine technologies and know-how nationally and globally to overcome cost and supply barriers, especially for those vaccines developed with taxpayer money;
  4. Prevent monopoly control of production in order to mobilize large-scale and decentralized manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines to adequately supply safe and effective vaccines for people here and around the world;
  5. Work collaboratively with world leaders and health authorities worldwide to deliver and implement a fair and equitable global distribution plan for the vaccine and all COVID-19 products and technologies;
  6. Empower scientists to independently determine – without fear or favor – if each vaccine is safe and effective for approval. Neither politics nor profits have a place in the vaccine approval process; and
  7. Prioritize protection for those people most in need and most at risk, including frontline healthcare and social-care workers, essential workers, older people, people with pre-existing conditions at higher risk, and high-transmission communities here and around the world.

“U.S. taxpayers have already committed more than $10 billion in public money towards a COVID-19 vaccine,” the letter continues. “A vaccine paid for by the people should work for the people and remain of the people.”

Read the full letter here.