“Die In” Protest Outside Merkel-Biden White House Summit Urges Germany to Stop Blocking Global COVID Vaccines

For Immediate Release
July 15, 2021

“Die In” Protest Outside Merkel-Biden White House Summit Urges Germany to Stop Blocking Global COVID Vaccines

Nationwide Protests During Merkel’s Visit to the United States Press Germany to Support the TRIPS Waiver Needed to Increase Vaccine Production and Help End the Pandemic

Washington, D.C. — As President Joe Biden hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a summit to discuss “ending the COVID-19 pandemic,” public health advocates laid out dozens of body bags in front of a giant Merkel puppet directly across the street from the White House, as part of nationwide protests calling on Germany to stop blocking an emergency waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules that is needed to increase global production of COVID vaccines and treatments that would help save millions of lives.

“While Americans and Western Europeans increasingly have widespread access to COVID vaccination, huge numbers of people around the world won’t have access to a vaccine for years unless global production is dramatically increased,” said Arthur Stamoulis, Executive Director of Citizens Trade Campaign, which help organize the “die in” and other demonstrations. “Ever day Chancellor Merkel delays global action on COVID vaccines costs thousands of lives and increases the chances of a viral mutation that can evade current vaccines and start the pandemic all over for everyone. The Merkel-Biden meeting will not be a success unless Germany agrees to support the TRIPS waiver and help end the pandemic.”

The die-in was one of more than a dozen protests and public events held across the United States that week calling on Germany to support a “TRIPS waiver” that would temporarily suspend certain rules under the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that stand in the way of COVID vaccines and treatments being produced in as many places as possible as quickly as possible. The Biden administration and the vast majority of other governments around the world support a TRIPS waiver for COVID vaccines, while the European Union, led by Germany, continues to obstruct an agreement.

Two days prior, protesters used large helium balloons to hoist a giant 20-foot by 10-foot banner in front of the White House with an enormous image of Merkel’s face and text reading, “GERMANY: STOP BLOCKING GLOBAL COVID VACCINES” and “#TRIPSWaiver Now!”

The next day, leaders of global public health organizations and others, including Oxfam Germany Executive Director Marian, Partners in Health Chief Medical Officer Joia Mukherjee, Nobel Laureate Economic Joseph Stigliz, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), held an online press conference calling on Chancellor Merkel to end her block of the TRIPS waiver, while also calling on President Biden to show continued leadership on the issue by persuading her to do so.

At that same moment, almost two hundred gathered for a mass protest outside the German Permanent Mission to the UN in New York City, after which a number committed civil disobedience outside Pfizer’s Manhattan Headquarters.

“Angela Merkel is refusing to support the TRIPS waiver at the WTO when the US government and over 100 other countries have supported it. She is doing this to shield the powerful at the expense of ending the nightmare of COVID-19 and this leaves blood on her hands. We want to ensure that she knows and that the German public knows that not only is this decision immoral and shortsighted, but also overwhelmingly against the interests of the American public and the US government,” said Ben Levinson, Deputy Director of Justice Is Global.

Throughout the week, protesters likewise gathered outside a dozen separate German Consular offices in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Washington to remember loved ones lost to COVID-19 and further call on Germany to support the TRIPS waiver. A Twitter chain with photos from many of those demonstrations is online here.

“Germany continuing to prioritize pharmaceutical company profits over saving as many lives as possible and ending this pandemic would be a horrific stain on Chancellor Merkel’s legacy as a world leader. With thousands of people still dying of COVID every day due to lack of access to vaccines and treatments, her visit with President Biden today presents a literal life-or-death opportunity to change course and do the right thing for humanity,” said Stamoulis.