AstraZeneca: We demand a People’s Vaccine

AstraZeneca: We demand a People’s Vaccine

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By: Global Justice Now
Date: 13 May 2021
Campaigns: Pharma

As AstraZeneca held its annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday, our youth network launched protests outside the company’s head office in Cambridge, its second largest UK site in Macclesfield and outside Oxford University. We brought our demands for a People’s Vaccine directly to the company so they could not be ignored and our protests were also widely covered in local and national media.

These protests were part of a series of actions at Big Pharma shareholder meetings by the People’s Vaccine alliance to demand the industry share its vaccine technology, know-how and intellectual property with the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool. In the past few weeks, People’s Vaccine protests have also been organised outside the US headquarters of Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. All of these vaccines have been developed with public funding and should be global public goods rather than privatised commodities. By sharing the vaccine technology and know-how with the World Health Organisation, production can be ramped up so that there are enough supplies for all countries – not just the richest countries.


Photo: Jess Hurd/Global Justice Now

In Cambridge, protestors locked themselves to the entrance of the shareholder meeting which took place at the company’s headquarters. We were also joined by a great line up of speakers including Priyamvada Gopal, author of Insurgent Empire and Professor of Postcolonial Studies at the University of Cambridge, Shreeta Lakhani and Rosanna Wiseman, migrants rights activists and coordinators for SOAS Detainee Support, and Manthan Pathak – climate justice activist based in Southampton and a representative of a South Asian diaspora network in the UK.

We also had food from Cambridge Community Kitchen, and music from DJ Skunk and a self-penned performance by Aidan Baker from the Cambridge Global Justice Now group.

There was a great atmosphere in both the sunshine and the heavy rain and the demonstration was creative, passionate and peaceful. Unfortunately the police provoked an unnecessary confrontation which led to four arrests. The police shouldn’t be inoculating corporate interests from public criticism – our thanks and solidarity go to everyone who took part.


The day started off with a banner drop at the entrance to the AstraZeneca site. Protestors then turned up to chant slogans such as: ‘No profits! No patents! Give the people vaccinations!’, ‘People of the world unite, Healthcare is a human right!’ and ‘Hey hey, Ho ho, Vaccine Patents have to go!’

The protestors were joined by a range of speakers including Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, a young Covid-19 trials patient advocating for a people’s vaccine and Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now and anti-corporate campaigner. There were also live streamed messages from prominent Pakistani activist, Ammar Ali Jan, and Sai Balaji National, President of All India Students’ Association. We also had a pre-recorded message from Cassia Bechara, national director of the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil.

This was followed by participative stencilling workshops, music, spoken word, impassioned speeches and shared food.


By Oxford Climate Justice Campaign

In Oxford, grassroots activists came together to highlight the role of the University in developing the AstraZeneca vaccine. Public scientists developed the vaccine so it could be used across the world. We need to stay true to that vision, and call on AstraZeneca to keep their vaccines affordable, to share the technology and suspend the patents. We cannot allow our university to be complicit in vaccine apartheid.

Many of us were from the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign and Disarm Oxford, two groups that are very concerned with the negligence shown by big business towards the lives of people in the global south and the Middle East (and especially the complicity of Oxford University in supporting the fossil fuel and arms industries). Big pharma is another manifestation of this global injustice. So yesterday we said to AstraZeneca: choose people over profit!

At 11am we gathered outside the Clarendon Building, which houses the administrative offices of the University and is in the city’s historic centre. We had students – many from the Oxford Climate Justice Campaign but also some who were just there as concerned individuals, alumni, access to medicines campaigners and local people of all ages with us.

There were lots of colourful homemade placards alongside the huge Global Justice Now banner, which carried messages such as ‘Vaccine Justice’, ‘Share the Technology’, and ‘Oxford, Use Your Influence’.

Many people came over to talk to us about what we were doing, including local and student journalists, and there was a good atmosphere. University security was present at the start and we talked to them and they were happy to let us do our demonstration uninterrupted.

We had an extremely dramatic rain storm towards the end of our protest, but our spirits were still high and we chanted over the noise of the thunder!

We were sad and angry to hear about the troubles that the demonstrators in Cambridge had with the police, but were thrilled with how well the message was being spread across the UK, and we were sending best wishes and solidarity to fellow campaigners throughout the day. We hope that AstraZeneca will listen to us all and choose people over profit.

Take action with us

Thanks to everyone who came along and helped make this happen! This was the first nationwide youth network-led action that we’ve done and there’ll be many more in the future.

The Global Justice Now Youth Network has been set up as a part of the global movement against corporate power, inequality, climate change and racism. Get involved if you want to help build a world in which people come before profit.

Top photo: Jess Hurd/Global Justice Now