Prince Harry has used his speech at an awards ceremony to deliver a vital message about vaccine equity — urging world leaders to tackle the “huge disparity” in access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

He also used the moment to target misinformation, saying that “mass-scale misinformation” had caused vaccine hesitancy that was putting communities at risk.

The Duke of Sussex was a surprise presenter at British GQ magazine’s annual Men of the Year awards held on Wednesday evening in London.

He was presenting the “Heroes of the Year” award to the entire team behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Two University of Oxford vaccine scientists who led the team, Dame Sarah Gilbert and Prof. Cathertine Green, accepted the award.

Speaking via video link from California, Prince Harry said he was “deeply honoured” to be presenting the award to the two scientists for their “landmark contribution to the fight against COVID-19.”

He added that the Oxford team had approached their task with “humanitarian urgency” and had “brought the world one of our greatest tools for achieving vaccine equity.”

But he said that while they had “done their part” it was up to everyone else, including “governments, pharmaceutical leaders, and heads of business”, to do theirs too, by sharing the vaccine with low- and middle-income countries.

“That must include sharing vaccine science and supporting and empowering developing countries with more flexibility,” he said, referring to efforts to lift patent restrictions on the COVID-19 vaccine and provide technology to allow lower-income countries to produce their own vaccines and not have to rely on donations.

The Duke of Sussex highlighted that while it is a big achievement that over 5 billion people in the world have at least one shot of a vaccine, the progress is unequal, as fewer than 2% of people in low-income countries have so far received a dose.

“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,” Prince Harry added.

After the event, Green told reporters: “He said all of the things we wanted to say about the necessity to get vaccines to the world for people irrespective of their ability to pay. A really important message.”

Gilbert added: “We’re not going to be safe until everybody is safe and it’s really important to get the vaccine to everybody around the world.”

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is the most widely used around the world, with 1 billion doses sent to more than 170 countries.

Continuing his speech, Prince Harry highlighted a description of the scientists, originally written in the Guardian: “Two ordinary people who managed to pull off an extraordinary feat while dealing with the everyday stresses that come with being full-time mums and breadwinners in a notoriously insecure and poorly paid field."

The GQ speech is not the first time Prince Harry has made an impassioned plea for vaccine equity. He also spoke on stage at Global Citizen’s ‘VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World’ event in May in Los Angeles to highlight global inequity. 

“The virus does not respect borders, and access to the vaccine cannot be determined by geography. It must be accepted as a basic right for all and that is our starting point,” he said at VAX LIVE. 

You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.


Defeat Poverty

Prince Harry Just Used an Awards Speech Brilliantly to Highlight Vaccine Inequity

By Helen Lock