We need a People's Vaccine

To end the COVID-19 pandemic, the vaccine must be free, fair, and accessible to all.

COVID-19 vaccines could be our way out of this global pandemic nightmare, and get us back to work, back to school, and back to our lives – but only if they are accessible to everyone, everywhere, as soon as possible.

But there is not enough supply of the vaccines – 9 out of 10 people in poor countries won’t even have access to a vaccine this year.

COVID-19 anywhere is COVID-19 everywhere. To end this pandemic, we need a People’s Vaccine: a patent-free, mass produced, and fairly distributed vaccine available free of charge to everyone, rich and poor alike.

Oxfam is a member of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, coalition of organizations and activists united under a common aim of campaigning for a People’s Vaccine for COVID-19.

The campaign achieved a major victory on May 5th, 2021 when the US Trade Representative Katherin Tai announced that the US government would support waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines, “an essential step toward increasing manufacturing vaccines and toward worldwide immunization.”


An Open Letter to President Biden

President Biden has tremendous power to help decide who gets access to protection from this virus, when and at what cost. As a cross-section of leaders from public health, business, faith-based, racial justice and labor organizations, public service, entertainment and economics, we join our voices to call on the President of the United States to commit to a People’s Vaccine.

Read the letter


We break down the People’s Vaccine:

What is a People’s Vaccine and why do we need it to end the pandemic?

Short answer: A People’s Vaccine is a vaccine for all people, no matter where you live or how much money you have.

The best hope we have to truly putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is making all COVID-19 vaccines free and available to every single person on this planet. Scientists around the world worked so hard to produce safe and effective vaccines that can protect us from infection. Taxpayers like you and me invested millions of dollars to make this happen. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but the pandemic is not over yet. We all must work together globally to demand the vaccine be for the people – one that is patent-free, distributed fairly and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge.

Who is responsible for creating a People’s Vaccine?

Short answer: pharma companies and our governments.

Scientist have done their part; they delivered a number of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. We the taxpayers did our part by funding some of the research. Now policy makers and corporate executives must do their part to make these vaccines accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Lifesaving vaccines, tests, and treatments shouldn’t be auctioned off to the highest bidder, we must ensure that corporations are putting people over profits.

What is Oxfam asking pharmaceutical companies to do?

Oxfam is calling on US pharma companies – including Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer – to be transparent, collaborative, and fair in developing and producing COVID-19 vaccines that will keep us healthy and end the pandemic.  This means they should allow for worldwide, low-cost production to meet the unprecedented demand by forgoing monopoly control over the COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines and treatments they are developing with our taxpayer dollars. Oxfam is also calling on companies to support fair global distribution of the vaccines, with those who are at most risk and in most need receiving the vaccines first.

Why is Oxfam calling for a People’s Vaccine?

Oxfam has been advocating for fair pharmaceutical prices and patent laws that can benefit poor people for decades. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the poorest people the hardest, there is a danger that lack of access to an affordable vaccine will widen the inequality gaps between rich and poor—both in the US and around the world. This could set back the fight against the injustice of poverty and inequality by decades.

Who will end up paying for the vaccine? Can we afford for it to be free for everyone?

As taxpayers, we’ve already paid for a good deal of the front-end research and development. What we need now is for the pharma companies to be transparent about the true costs it takes to produce the vaccines they are developing, and then for the companies to sell them as close to true cost as possible. They should not set the vaccine price to benefit their shareholders and CEOs at the expense of our health.  This will also allow governments and health agencies to cover this cost and then deliver the vaccines, free of charge to the public in both rich and poor countries.

How can we be sure the vaccines will be safe and effective, especially with so much political pressure on the Food and Drug Administration?

Politics has no place in the process to approve the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Scientists—not politicians—should be empowered to determine which vaccines to approve. And the FDA should not approve any vaccine for use that has not been conclusively demonstrated to be safe and effective.

How do we address the history of systemic racism in medicine and healthcare in the US to ensure that everyone has equal access to the People’s Vaccine?

It’s essential that the People’s Vaccine be available to all people, especially those who are most vulnerable and bearing the highest burden of the pandemic. In the United States there is widespread discrimination against Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color in the health care system, and many do not trust the very health institutions on which we rely to develop and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19.

There is good reason for this lack of trust: A history of unethical medical experiments on Black people, exclusion and discrimination based on race and ethnicity, and ongoing inadequate health outcomes at high cost are common for many Black and historically marginalized groups. This makes Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in poor health more vulnerable to COVID-19 because the health care system has failed them (as well as other factors such as where they live and work).

The development and roll out of a coronavirus vaccine needs to reflect this reality and resulting lack of trust: Vaccine trials participants should only be involved with their full consent, and governments and institutions responsible for distributing the vaccine must build trust and ensure affordable, equitable access for the most vulnerable people. Creating and distributing the People’s Vaccine should be part of an effort to redefine how health care works, making it more accessible for the people who are most vulnerable to coronavirus and other deadly diseases.

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