A year into the pandemic, pressure for a People’s Vaccine is building
People's Vaccine not Profit Vaccine banner on Westminster Bridge. Credit: Jess Hurd

A year into the pandemic, pressure for a People’s Vaccine is building

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By: Global Justice Now
Date: 11 March 2021
Campaigns: Pharma

Thousands of activists across the world demanded a People’s Vaccine as part of the global day of action on the first anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring coronavirus a pandemic.

Together with the People’s Vaccine Alliance, we helped to mobilise and co-ordinate organisations, networks and activists across to the world to demand end to vaccine apartheid. While vaccines are being rolled out in rich countries, the global south could be waiting up to 2023 for widespread vaccination.

We are calling for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations for everyone, everywhere, but pharmaceutical companies and rich countries’ governments are defending corporate profits by blocking a proposal to suspend patent rules that would help the ramp up production so there are enough vaccines doses to meet global demand.

On 11 March we made our voices heard. More than 16,000 people used the #PeoplesVaccine hashtag and got it trending on social media, as activists staged protests across the world.

Rally for a People’s Vaccine

We held a global online rally with speakers from across the world – from politicians, doctors, patients, and campaigners – demanding vaccines for all. You can watch the full rally below or watch individual speakers, including Winnie Byanyima and Bernie Sanders, here.

Political action

At our People’s Vaccine rally, Senator Bernie Sanders announced his plan to write to President Biden to demand the United States support the proposal to suspend patent rules for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization (WTO)  –  a move that would unlock the world’s global productive capacity.

Caroline Lucas MP, former leader of the Green Party, exposed the woeful inadequacy of Boris Johnson’s plans to donate excess UK doses through COVAX, a global vaccine purchasing scheme. The UK won’t donate any doses until the UK is absolutely sure it has no further use for vaccinations, she revealed.

Donations will only come from the small number of earmarked COVAX jabs, excluding the majority of the UK’s vaccines bough bilaterally. And countries may be asked to pay for vaccines supposedly ‘donated’ by the UK.

She highlighted that vaccine access needs to be a matter of justice, not charity.

It comes after Labour MP Richard Burgon led a cross-party group of 36 MPs calling for a People’s Vaccine and business leaders, academics, economists and trade unions joined forces to demand the UK government back a TRIPS waiver at the WTO.

Making our voices heard

In London, Global Justice Now campaigners beamed “Drop the patents. End Vaccine apartheid” onto the head office of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, the UK pharma lobby.

"Drop the patents. End vaccine apartheid" beamed onto the UK pharma lobby. Photo: Jess Hurd

Offices of the UK pharma lobby, the association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry. Photo: Jess Hurd


Activists from Global Justice Now also dropped a banner from Westminster Bridge in front of Parliament, demanding a “people’s vaccine, not profit vaccine”, before being moved on by the Metropolitan Police.

Campaigners in Cambridge and Liverpool unravelled banners in front of AstraZeneca’s UK sites.

Global Justice Now activists outside AstraZeneca in Cambridge

Global Justice Now activists outside AstraZeneca in Cambridge.

The company committed to not profit from its vaccines during the pandemic. But it has been reported that Uganda is paying three times the EU price for their vaccine – and AstraZeneca is refusing to share the rights and blueprints to make the vaccines, restricting production to their own supply chains.

In South Africa, the People’s Vaccine Alliance demonstrated outside Johnson and Johnson in Cape Town and Pfizer in Johannesburg, handing in their demands to each company.

Peoples Vaccine Campaign, South Africa outside Johnson and Johnson site in Cape Town

“Drop the patents. End Vaccine apartheid” was projected onto the walls of the Parliament, while Heidi Chow from Global Justice Now spoke at their press conference.

Activists from HealthGap, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, Free the Vaccine and Justice is Global also protested outside Pfizer in New York, Johnson and Johnson in New Jersey, Moderna in Boston, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which funded the research and development of US vaccines

ATTAC activists in Vienna, Austria, lay down with gravestone placards to signify the millions who will needlessly die if rich nations and pharmaceutical companies don’t change course.

ATTAC activists in Vienna with gravestone placards

ATTAC activists in Vienna


Students demanded a “TRIPS waiver now” outside the German federal government in Berlin, in a demo organised by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. In France, trade unionists protested outside Sanofi’s office and the regional health ministry in Lille.

Power to the People held demonstrations across Italy, including a protest outside Pfizer’s  site in Naples. In Prague, Czech Republic, Zero Covid activists demanded an end to vaccine patents.

See the gallery below for a round-up of protests.

The campaign for a People’s Vaccine is taking off across the world. But we’re only getting started. Millions will needlessly die unless big pharma and rich countries change course.

We’re gaining momentum, so keep speaking out. Sign our petition, lobby your politicians, and keep posting using #PeoplesVaccine.

Title photo credit: Jess Hurd