11 May Protestors to demand a People’s Vaccine outside AstraZeneca’s AGM
Demonstrations organised by Global Justice Now will take place today (Tuesday 11 May) outside AstraZeneca’s headquarters in Cambridge, at the company’s Macclesfield site, and at Oxford University, as AstraZeneca holds its Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Protestors are demanding the company openly license its Covid-19 vaccine and commit to sharing technology and know-how with the World Health Organisation (WHO). They are also calling on Oxford University to commit to making all of its future medical innovations open-licenced.
The WHO established the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) early on in the pandemic to facilitate the sharing of technology and knowhow for vaccines and treatments, but pharmaceutical companies like AstraZeneca have so far refused to join the programme.
Posters appeared at bus stops across the UK over the weekend highlighting the levels of public investment in vaccine research and development and the profits made by pharmaceutical companies.
An estimated 97% of funding for AstraZeneca’s vaccine came from public sources, including governments and charitable trusts. The company paid out £3.6bn in dividends and share buybacks in 2020 and paid CEO Pascal Soriot £15.4m. This year, Soriot could be paid a bonus of between £2.1m and £12m,
Oxford University’s stated policy is to openly license its innovations and said any vaccine it developed would be open to qualified manufacturers to produce without paying royalties, but the University deviated from this as it entered an exclusive licensing agreement with AstraZeneca.
The price promise does not bind AstraZeneca to charge non-profit pricing until the WHO declares the end of the pandemic. The company is able to declare the pandemic “over” and start charging profit prices as soon as July 2021.
In Cambridge, Priyamvada Gopal, Author of Insurgent Empire and Professor of Postcolonial Studies at the University of Cambridge, will join speakers from Global Justice Now and anti-racist and climate justice activists, with music from DJ Skunk.
A young Covid-19 vaccine trial participant will address the rally in Macclesfield, alongside speakers from Global Justice Now and Oxfam. International speakers will be livestreamed in, including Ammar Ali Jan, a prominent Pakistani activist and historian, and Cassia Bechara, the National Director of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil. There will be music from DJ Jameela and Syrian-born Manchester beatboxer Madz.
It comes after the Biden administration announced last Wednesday it would support an intellectual property waiver to help scale up global vaccine production to produce safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for all people, in all countries.
More than 400 academics, public health experts, MPs, peers, charities, NGOs, unions, faith leaders, healthcare workers, and patients have signed a letter calling for Boris Johnson to follow suit and drop the UK’s opposition to a waiver.
India and South Africa first proposed an intellectual property waiver at the World Trade Organisation six months ago, backed by more than 100 mostly low-and-middle income nations. But a small number of mostly wealthy states, including the UK and EU, have blocked the move so far.
With the European Union “ready to discuss” a patent waiver, campaigners are urging the UK government to drop its own opposition.
Campaigners have highlighted that pharmaceutical companies must also share their vaccine technology and know-how through the WHO for an intellectual property waiver to scale up global production.
Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, said:
“Scientists at Oxford University, a publicly-funded institution, developed this lifesaving vaccine through a research and development process that was 97% publicly funded. The resulting vaccine should have been openly accessible to everyone, but AstraZeneca swooped in and privatised it.
“The UK is reaping the benefits of the highly effective vaccines that are now available, but people in low and middle income countries are still dying daily by the thousands from Covid-19.
“AstraZeneca like to portray themselves as the good guys, but they’ve boycotted attempts to pool the vaccine knowledge they control just like all the other Pharma giants – and now claim they have no time to share this knowledge globally. Today, we’re demanding AZ pool this publicly created knowledge so the whole world can ramp up production of these vaccines.”