The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Activists Stage All-Night Vigil at COVID Response Coordinator Zients' House in DC, Demand Action From Biden to Vaccinate the World

Days Before G20 Summit, Protesters Demand Vaccine Equity as Biden and Pharma-Friendly Politicians Prolong the Pandemic


Just days before the G20 Summit in Rome, a progressive coalition of public health, global justice, and faith advocates led by Justice is Global, a project of People's Action, staged an all-night vigil in front of White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients' house to demand the Biden administration make good on its promise to do everything it can to vaccinate the world and end the pandemic. Protesters delivered a letter with the demands to Coordinator Zients, which he accepted but did not sign.

"We brought this global health crisis straight to Jeffrey Zients's front door because he and the Biden administration refuse to use the available tools to massively scale up production while millions of people in low- and middle-income countries wait for vaccines," Justice is Global Deputy Director Ben Levenson said. "We've tried every tactic to advance our policy goals, and yet the administration continues to pad Big Pharma's record profits instead of ending the pandemic. This is shameful, and we hope our actions are just the wake-up call the administration needs to finally act and vaccinate the world."

Protesters slept in front of Zients' house, holding a moment of silence for the 360 people who die every hour globally from the virus and commemorating someone who died due to COVID. At 6 AM this morning, protesters set off alarm clocks and loud speakers to wake up Zients and urge him to do his job.

"We rallied today, we marched, we spoke, and we visited Jeff Zients to make it clear to this administration that this pandemic will not end until we take global action. Let's lift patents and invest in the manufacturing capacity needed to end COVID in every country, in every community," Center for Popular Democracy Action National Field Organizer Vinay Krishnan said.

"The Biden administration must act now or consider themselves complicit in the ongoing and unnecessary deaths of millions of people around the world from COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines were funded with US tax-payer funds and should be shared with the world as soon as possible so that we can save lives and curb the pandemic before the emergence of a new variant. None of us are safe until all of us are safe," Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), North America Executive Director Merith Basey said.

"DSA calls for the end of counterproductive patent protections in medicine and creating a technology commons to facilitate the transfer of technology through the non-industrialized world. The TRIPS waiver is a small step to that horizon. The Biden admin has a responsibility to push the waiver into implementation at the WTO and end the pandemic," Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America Steering Committee Member Abel Amene said.

This action comes after a rally at the Eisenhower Office Building earlier that day in which dozens of protesters urged President Biden to prioritize people over Big Pharma profits and stop delaying full implementation of the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organization and other measures that would end the pandemic on a global scale. Co-sponsoring organizations included Justice is Global, People's Action, Metro DC DSA, Center for Popular Democracy Action, Free the Vaccine, and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines.

BACKGROUND: The Biden administration currently has no plan to vaccinate the world despite public health experts reaching consensus on a set of policies that would address the root cause of COVID-19. Lowering barriers to production, sharing the recipes for the vaccines, suspending intellectual property monopolies, and funding manufacturing hubs around the world would all help end the pandemic on a global scale, but the Biden administration refuses to do anything other than inconsistent and insufficient vaccine donations to other countries. There have been victories in the past. In May, after months of organized rallies, virtual events, and congressional outreach, the U.S. government stated its support for the TRIPS Waiver, which, when fully implemented, would lower barriers to vaccine production in the Global South. However, since then, little action has been taken by the U.S. to pressure its allies in Germany, the UK, and Switzerland to stop blocking the waiver from proceeding at the WTO. In July, Justice is Global helped lead a mass action in New York City demanding Angela Merkel and Pfizer stop blocking billions of people from accessing life-saving COVID-19 vaccines by limiting global vaccine production.

Read the letter of demands here.

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