More than 60 people protested outside Moderna’s headquarters in Cambridge on Wednesday to demand expanded global access to COVID-19 vaccines as the virus runs rampant in India.
The protest is one of several planned this week across the country to ensure vaccine access to the world’s poorer countries, organizers said in a statement.
Free the Vaccine, an organization whose Boston chapter organized Wednesday’s protest, also demonstrated last month outside Moderna as well as Pfizer’s New York headquarters.
Activists, doctors, and community members demanded that the Biden administration support an immediate World Trade Organization patent waiver, which would allow the rapid increase of vaccine production and distribution in low- and middle-income countries, according to the statement.
The demonstrators also pressed for Moderna to join the World Health Organization’s Technology Access Pool to speed global access to affordable coronavirus treatments, according to the statement.
“We need three things to happen to get to global equity: the [patent] waiver, the sharing of know-how, and global funding for mass vaccination,” Dr. Joia Mukherjee, chief medical officer of Partners in Health, said in the statement. “We can finance the COVID response with chump change from the Pentagon.”
Brook K. Baker, a Northeastern University law school professor, said in the statement that drugmakers “have chosen a policy of false scarcity in order to maximize their profits. … Pills cost pennies. Greed costs lives.”
A representative of Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.
Moderna is one of three pharmaceutical companies, along with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, that have developed COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use in the United States.
Also Wednesday, US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, along with three colleagues, sent letters to all three drugmakers asking how the companies plan to expand vaccine access internationally, particularly in India, where more than 350,000 new infections were reported in a single day this week.
“Increasing COVID-19 vaccinations in India is urgently needed to reduce human suffering and prevent unnecessary deaths,” the senators wrote in the letter. “It could also help halt the spread of coronavirus variants that could prolong the pandemic across the globe.”
The senators expressed concern that, as vaccination access lags in many poorer countries, the rapidly spreading and evolving virus could develop a variant that is resistant to vaccines. They suggested that drugmakers embrace the patent waiver and share technology, including vaccine recipes and production methods, and join WHO’s Technology Access Pool to help facilitate cooperation.
The letters also were signed by Senators Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and Jeffrey A. Merkley of Oregon.