Global Citizen Sets ‘Vax Live’ Special With Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lopez, H.E.R., Foo Fighters and J Balvin From So-Fi Stadium

Chris Willman
·7-min read

Global Citizen, which was synonymous with advocacy-themed entertainment specials in the early months of the pandemic, will return in May with “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” a special that will be shot at L.A.’s new So-Fi Stadium to run on major TV networks as well as streaming platforms.

Selena Gomez will host the event, which will film at the stadium in May just prior to the broadcast and feature performances from Jennifer Lopez, H.E.R., Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and Foo Fighters.

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The show will run Saturday, May 8 at 8 p.m. ET as an hour-long prime-time special on CBS and ABC and in an 11 p.m. time slot on Fox. YouTube, iHeartMedia radio stations and the iHeartRadio app will also air the show. YouTube’s version will run to 90 minutes and include additional performances, including a number by the K-pop group NCT 127 and content from some of the platform’s more prominent video creators.

The purpose of the special is (at least) two-fold: to encourage corporations and philanthropists to use their money to help get vaccines to 27 million frontline workers in countries where vaccinations are not yet available even to those most in danger, and to overcome vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. and countries where it is readily available.

Global Citizen isn’t yet announcing the exact date for the filming or how much of a live audience will be on hand for the shoot at So-Fi Stadium in Inglewood, as the size of a possible crowd for the concert is still very much in flux, although whatever audience is allowed is likely to consist of vaccinated frontline workers.

Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans tells Variety: “Frankly, to pull off something as ambitious as this, that wouldn’t be possible without the full support of the state of California. And we’ve working with the LA. County health department, the city of Los Angeles, the city of Inglewood, and obviously So-Fi Stadium to make sure that we can conduct this to the highest levels of COVID compliance, because we want to demonstrate the power of what happens when people have access to the vaccine. and when those healthcare heroes are recognized as they should be.”

Of the lineup, Evans says, “It is a very diverse cast. Almost all of the artists to say that they want to collaborate in one way, shape or form with other artists, so we are going to have a ton of additional announcements over the next few weeks to share with you as all of those collaborations lock in. We also have a couple of other big host announcements coming up that are equally exciting over the next few weeks. … Most artists will, for the sake of the broadcast, only be able to perform a couple of songs, because t’s a very tight hour and then an hour and a half for the YouTube special. … I can tell you that J.Lo has a huge surprise in store, and I can tell you that H.E.R. is planning something super, super cool, involving hundreds of other people as well, which is really exciting.”

For the special, Global Citizen is again teaming with the World Health Organization, as it did on the Lady Gaga-co-curated “One World: Together at Home” and other specials.

The filming will mark Global Citizen’s first in-person event since its annual Central Park concerts went on pause for the pandemic and led to the org doing largely Zoom-ed in television specials.

“There are 27 million frontline healthcare workers that haven’t received a single dose of the vaccine. These are teachers, doctors, nurses all around the world. Because as you know, all of the vaccine doses have gone to a very small number of nations. And so there are literally 27 million healthcare heroes on the planet that haven’t received the doses they urgently need, and we believe that it’s not right that I, a 38-year-old male here in the United States, could have access to a vaccine before a heroic healthcare worker in Haiti or the Dominican Republic or Uganda for that matter. And so that’s why we’re focused on this effort.”

Vaccine hesitancy is being addressed via a website, Vax Because, and an ad campaign Global Citizen is developing with the Ad Council.

“The Ad Council is actually one of our main executive producers on this whole campaign to overcome vaccine hesitancy. And many of the artists that are on board are also reaching out to specific target communities to overcome vaccine hesitancy. We know that the best way to overcome vaccine hesitancy is not to preach to people, to tell them they have to take the vaccine. that just doesn’t work. The best way to do it is if they see their friends and family taking it, or they feel they have answers to the questions that they need. So obviously hesitancy is a key part of it.

“But by June, the U.S, will have enough doses to be able to vaccinate every citizen in the United States and still have 45 million doses left over just sitting in cold storage in warehouses not going to anyone. And it’s not ethically right, from my view. You’ve probably already seen that they’ve already got 20 million doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that have not even been authorized in the United States that are already sitting just in cold storage in the U.S. So this is a global message. And by the way, this is not just a U.S. challenge. This is also an EU challenge. This is also a challenge for really all of the advanced economies.”

Says Evans: “Our key calls to action are firstly to call on philanthropists and corporations to donate enough dollars for doses to help vaccinate those 27 million heroic healthcare workers that are on the front line in the poorest countries that need access to the vaccine most, because they’re the ones that are most susceptible of contracting COVID right now. But we also want to call on governments and philanthropists to invest the additional $22.1 billion needed to actually get the 2 billion vaccine doses and other medical tools to the poorest countries. And we want to encourage the pharmaceutical companies to commit to selling their vaccines at a production price. Focusing on earning profits at the expense of human lives will impede that progress.

“So this is not a story of equitable vaccine rollout globally. And I think for a nation like the U.S. that has just spent the last two years grappling with this question of equity with all the major social movements that have happened in the last few years here in the US, the question of vaccine equity, leads directly to all the other equity movements, because it’s always women and girls, and it’s always people of color who are the least likely to have access to the vaccine. So this question of access, I think, is a reckoning for us morally here in the United States. And I think it’s (related to) the other social movements have caused the nation to ask citizens, what does the U.S. want to be to the world?

“I think that question is more prevalent now through the pandemic, because this can’t be allowed to become the next HIV/AIDS, where in a few years’ time, celebrities have to remind us that we shouldn’t have forgotten Africa. I mean, for goodness sake, we already know that vaccine rollout. That’s the benefit of modern journalism in that we already have the data around the world about how vaccine rollout is taking place globally. And you can see that there’s a disproportionate number of vaccines that are entering only into the wealthiest economies right now. It doesn’t take any form of rocket science to deduce the fact that we need to move faster.

“And this can’t be a 2022 challenge. We can’t assume that we can just let other economies falter because then we won’t be allowed to, or able to, properly engage in global trade. And it will actually have a long-term reverberating negative impact on the U.S. economy as well. So even if we don’t care about this from altruistic reasons, we should care about it from a self-interested perspective, because we can ensure that that the global economy can restart.”

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