Prince Harry gave an impassioned speech at an awards ceremony last night, pleading with governments and pharmaceutical companies to do more to vaccinate the world.
“Where you’re born should not affect your ability to survive, when the drugs and know-how exist to keep you alive and well,” the Duke of Sussex told attendees of the 24th annual GQ Men of the Year Awards.
Harry was presenting The Heroes of the Year Award to Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Dr. Catherine Green and the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Speaking via video link, he called them “heroes of the highest order who gave us an instrument to fight this disease,” adding, “They are our nation’s pride and we are deeply indebted to their service.”
But as he hailed “their breakthrough research” he also called on others to do more.
“Until every community can access the vaccine, and until every community is connected to trustworthy information about the vaccine, then we are all at risk,” he said.
He went on, “As people sit in the room with you tonight, more than a third of the global population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s more than 5 billion shots given around the world so far. It sounds like a major accomplishment, and in many ways is. But there is a huge disparity between who can and cannot access the vaccine. Less than 2% of people in the developing world have received a single dose at this point and many of their health care workers are still not even vaccinated. We cannot move forward together unless we address this imbalance as one.”
The duke also spoke about the misinformation campaigns that are adding to vaccine hesitancy: “This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome COVID-19 and the rise of new variants,” he said.
He then called on “global governments, pharmaceutical leaders, and heads of business” to do their part.
“That must include sharing vaccine science and supporting and empowering developing countries with more flexibility,” he said.
Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have previously spoken out on vaccine inequality.
Last May the pair were campaign chairs of "Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World," an international COVID-19 vaccination effort organized by Global Citizen.
Speaking at that event Harry said, “None of us should be comfortable thinking that we could be fine when so many others are suffering. In reality, and especially with this pandemic, when any suffer, we all suffer," Harry also said in his remarks. "We must look beyond ourselves with empathy and compassion for those we know, and those we don't. We need to lift up all of humanity and make sure that no person or community is left behind.”
Katie Kindelan contributed to this report.