Prince Harry is urging global leaders to step up their efforts to equitably distribute the COVID-19 vaccine as well as combat misinformation about it.
On Wednesday night, the Duke of Sussex appeared over video at the GQ Men of the Year Awards 2021 to present a prize to the female-led team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
To date, AstraZeneca has shipped over a billion doses of the vaccine globally, according to the Guardian.
“I’m deeply honored to be introducing our final awardees who you will immediately recognize for their landmark contribution to the fight against COVID-19,” he said. “Our heroes this evening are professor Sarah Gilbert, Dr. Catherine Green and the entire team of dedicated Oxford scientists. Their breakthrough research on the Oxford vaccine has brought the world one of the greatest tools for achieving vaccines equity.”
“They also approach their mission with a humanitarian urgency,” he said. “In April of last year, the Oxford team packed up a shipment of research cultures and stealthfully sent it to India — an early example of the biotech collaboration we need to bring this global crisis to an end.”
Harry emphasized that “until every community can access the vaccines and until every community is connected to trustworthy information about the vaccine, then we are all at risk.
“As people sit in the room with you tonight, more than one-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, and it sounds like a major accomplishment, and in many ways it is. But there’s a huge disparity between who can and cannot access the vaccine.
“Less than 2 percent of people in the developing world have received a single dose at this point and many of their health care workers are still not vaccinated,” he continued. “We cannot move forward together unless we address this imbalance as one. At the same time, families around the world are being overwhelmed by mass-scale misinformation across news media and social media, where those who peddle in lies and fear are creating vaccine hesitancy, which in turn is dividing communities and eroding trust.”
“This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome COVID-19 and the risk of new variants,” he said. “The Oxford team have done their part. They are heroes of the highest order who gave us an instrument to fight this disease. They are our nation’s pride and we are deeply indebted to their service. For the rest of us — including global governments, pharmaceutical leaders and heads of business, we have to keep doing our part.”
That part, Harry says, is “sharing vaccine science and supporting and impairing developing countries with more flexibility.”
The mental health advocate has previously used his platform to speak out about the benefits of getting vaccinated.
In May, he appeared at the Global Citizen’s star-studded “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” to speak out on vaccine misinformation.
“Hesitancy is not an option. Misinformation is not only simply harming those who believe it, but also those who don’t. We must tackle each of these issues head-on: vaccine equity and misinformation,” he said. “And if vaccine distribution moved half as quickly as misinformation, just imagine how many lives could be saved.”