Protest Comes As Pfizer Pushes for Third Shots to Boost Revenue and Merkel Continues to Block TRIPS Waiver
NEW YORK, NY — Hundreds of demonstrators marched through the streets today, stopping at the German Consulate and Pfizer Headquarters, where they peacefully blocked traffic for an hour, first on 42 St and then at the intersection of 42 St and 2 Ave, as they called on Chancellor Merkel and pharmaceutical corporations to stop blocking billions of people from accessing life-saving COVID-19 vaccines by limiting global vaccine production.
Starting at Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza at 10am, about 100 demonstrators marched first to the German Consulate, where they called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to stop obstructing a waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property rules that are impeding global production of Covid-19 medical supplies and vaccines.
Holding signs reading “END COVID EVERYWHERE” and “PHARMA GREED COULD KILL US ALL,” and chanting “vaccines for all” and “vaccine apartheid no more,” the march continued to the headquarters of Pfizer, where demonstrators sat down and linked arms in protest of the pharmaceutical industry’s role in lobbying to prevent an intellectual property rights waiver and refusal to share their vaccine recipes. “Pfizer Blocks Vaccines, We Block Pfizer” read one sign. This peaceful blockade halted access to the Pfizer building and blocked traffic for about an hour.
“On behalf of Partners In Health and all our allies across the world, we call on Chancellor Merkel to join the 150 other heads of state to waive patents and aid in an urgent, collaborative, and comprehensive global vaccine effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Everywhere, for everyone.” — Joia Mukherjee, Chief Medical Officer, Partners In Health
“The technology to save millions of people exists, but powerful people bankrolled by Pfizer continue to block access to this critical and lifesaving information. So today we blocked them. This crisis will never end unless we come together against big corporate bullies and demand that power back.” — Tobita Chow, Director, Justice is Global
“While COVID continues to ravage communities around the globe and cases are spiking here in the U.S., Pfizer’s priority is its patents and profits. Corporate greed is blocking our recovery from the pandemic. People’s lives and our collective future is at stake, and that is why people are putting their bodies on the line to demand a true end to the pandemic.” — People’s Action Campaigns Director Sondra Youdelman
“The COVID era is far from over, and we must all commit to a truly global response to this global threat. What we saw in New York is a people demanding a safer world for everyone, where no community or country gets left behind. We join our allies in asking Chancellor Merkel to support a TRIPS Waiver and asking President Biden to devote the full resources of his office to vaccinate the world.” — Vinay Krishnan, National Field Organizer, Center for Popular Democracy Action
“We have to sound the alarm. Pfizer wants to reap billions in profit from boosters in the richest countries while virtually no one in sub Saharan Africa has had even one dose. This is depraved. Merkel–and Biden–must be forced to rein them in. It is not exaggerating to call this a crime against humanity.” — Emily Sanderson, Senior Coordinator, Grassroots Advocacy, Health GA
“We have the technology to end the pandemic, for everyone, everywhere. But powerful corporations and the politicians who serve them have chosen to put private profits before public health. It’s up to us to fight for a world that puts people first.” — Michael Galant, member of the International Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America
BACKGROUND: These demands came as a part of a nationwide series of protests in advance of Chancellor Merkel’s planned meeting with President Biden on Thursday. Merkel is one of the last remaining opponents blocking a proposal at the WTO to remove intellectual property rights barriers on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Merkel’s obstruction, together with that of Pfizer and other pharmaceutical giants, comes while a wave of 60% more transmissible delta-variant COVID-19 infection is resulting in terrifying spikes in preventable infection and death in the global South that have been denied vaccine access.
Artificial supply scarcity brought about by unchecked monopoly power, alongside vaccine dose hoarding by the wealthiest countries, has robbed the countries of the global South the widespread immunity that is being built up in high income countries. In the region of sub Saharan Africa, 1.3% of the population is fully vaccinated. While 3 billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, only 1.6% of those doses have been administered in Africa. Across the continent COVID-19 cases have surged by 52% and deaths increased by 32%. In June, COVID-19 cases surged by 1000% in Uganda, fueled by the delta variant. Only 4,000 of Uganda’s 45 million people are fully vaccinated.
The action was co-anchored by People’s Action and Justice is Global and co-sponsored by PNHP-Metro NY, SEIU CIR, Rise and Resist, ACT UP NY, Uptown Progressive Action, African Services Committee, Right to Health Action, Religions for Peace, Health GAP, Health GAP, Center for Popular Democracy, and DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving).
Photos from the event may be found here, with more to be added.