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Vaccine Equity Protest

A doctor speaks while other physicians look on by a heap of prop bones during a protest for global vaccine equity at the Beacon Hill, Massachusetts home of Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel on September 29, 2021. (Photo: Free the Vaccine-Boston/Twitter)

Public Health Advocates Target Top Biden Aide, Moderna CEO in Protest Demanding Vaccine Equity

"Without real bold leadership... we risk being caught in this pandemic loop, constantly battling new variants coming from regions without the vaccine. The only way out of this pandemic is by vaccinating the world."

Brett Wilkins

Public health advocates on Wednesday brought towering piles of prop bones to the homes of a top White House aide and Moderna's CEO in a bid to spur the Biden administration and Big Pharma to save countless lives around the world by ramping up Covid-19 vaccine production and technology-sharing.

"The world's current shortage of Covid-19 vaccines is really the result of deliberate policy choices."
—Dr. Rebecca Zash,
Harvard Medical School

Standing in front of the 12-foot-tall bone heap outside the Chevy Chase, Maryland residence of White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, James Krellenstein—co-founder of the HIV prevention group PrEP4All—said that the top aide to President Joe Biden was being targeted because "one of the biggest problems that we see in this administration's response" is that "there's not a single person and a single chain of command that is dedicated to dealing with the international issues" regarding the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Really, we're bringing attention to the fact that both Moderna and the U.S. government have been completely inadequate in scaling up vaccine access globally," Krellenstein told Sinclair Broadcast Group.

According to The Washington Post:

The group also included longtime HIV/AIDS activists Peter Staley and Gregg Gonsalves, who defended the decision to protest outside of Klain's personal residence, contending that they had repeatedly tried to sway U.S. officials through standard channels. The activists said that they had regularly met with leaders such as Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, and White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients and that they hoped those meetings would continue.

A similar protest was staged outside the Beacon Hill, Massachusetts home of Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. Activists noted that the company received billions of dollars in public funds to develop its coronavirus vaccine, yet has not shared its intellectual property and technology with other nations or waived patent protections so that Global South manufacturers can produce generic doses.

"I'm here today because I'm so mad and so sad about the lack of equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines," Dr. Rebecca Zash, an infectious disease specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, said at the Cambridge event.

"It's wrong, it's morally reprehensible, and it's personal to me," added Zash, who said she has friends and colleagues in Botswana—where she is a research associate at the Botswana Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership—who are "dying of Covid because of where they were born and their lack of access to vaccines."

Zash said the current situation evokes a sense of "déjà vu to what HIV was like 20 years ago, when we had lifesaving HIV medicines that weren't available outside the U.S. or Europe, and I had to watch my peers who I was working with, who were my age—in their 20s and 30s—die from AIDS while the U.S. government administrators said it would be logistically difficult to [distribute] HIV medicines in Africa."

"Instead of showing the leadership the administration was elected and appointed to deploy, they're cowering in the face of greed."
—Asia Russell,
Health GAP

"They were totally wrong," Zash continued. "And as soon as there was a will to do it... it was wildly successful, and saved millions and millions of lives."

"And so now we're here because we're making the same mistake with Covid," said Zash. "The world's current shortage of Covid-19 vaccines is really the result of deliberate policy choices... Despite having the legal authority to scale production globally and billions of dollars from Congress, Biden has still spent less than 1% of this money scaling up production, and refused to compel companies like Moderna to share their technology."

Zash added that "this plan to donate 300 million or so vaccines to low-income countries is just too small, it's not enough. Millions and millions of people are going to die, people who just happen to live in another country."

"Vaccinating the world is in our own self-interest," she asserted. "Without real bold leadership from this administration, we risk being caught in this pandemic loop, constantly battling new variants coming from regions without the vaccine. The only way out of this pandemic is by vaccinating the world."

At the Maryland protest outside Klain's home, Asia Russell, executive director of the advocacy group Health GAP (Global Access Project), called the Biden administration's recent pledge to donate 1.1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses a "rounding error."

"The reality is the untapped capacity of manufacturing exists right now," Russell asserted. "Instead of showing the leadership the administration was elected and appointed to deploy, they're cowering in the face of greed."


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