Police have reportedly arrested protesters outside AstraZeneca’s UK office where activists demanded pharmaceutical firms waive Covid-19 vaccine patent rights, and called for jabs to be more equally distributed.
The protests, led by Global Justice Now, began on Tuesday morning when two people chained themselves to the front doors of the Anglo-Swedish company’s HQ in the city of Cambridge.
Others climbed onto the porch above the doors and unfurled a banner reading: “People’s vaccine not profit vaccine.”
Some activists played drums as police scuffled with protesters and made two arrests, according to a reporter for the Guardian.
— Damien Gayle (@damiengayle) May 11, 2021
Among speakers addressing the small crowd outside AstraZeneca’s office was Dr Priyamvada Gopal, a lecturer in postcolonial literature at the University of Cambridge’s Churchill College.
“The virus is really laughing with glee,” she said. “The more we have patents, the more we refuse to share know-how, the more we privatise medicine, the more it is able to run rampant.”
“What we now have, as many people have said, is vaccine apartheid. It is apartheid, it is protecting people on class lines, on caste lines and on race lines.”
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On Monday, some 450 public health experts, charities, faith leaders and others published an open letter calling on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to waive vaccine patents.
US President Joe Biden’s administration said last week it backed proposals by India and South Africa at the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and other technologies.
The World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – who has previously called for nations to support such plans – said the US move marked a “monumental moment in the fight against Covid-19.”
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On Tuesday, Reuters reported that a spokesperson for the UK government had confirmed it was “engaging” with the US and other WTO members on the issue of waivers.
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