Prince Harry and Meghan Markle today signed an open letter accusing the UK and ‘rich’ neighbours of pursuing ‘self-defeating nationalism’ to deny African and Asian countries the right to make their own Covid-19 vaccines.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are campaigning for Britain to work with pharmaceutical companies to waive intellectual property rights on the life-saving jabs in the latest flashpoint between Harry and his home country. In an open letter published this afternoon, Meghan, Harry and other signatories warned ‘the pandemic is not over’, and blamed ‘self-defeating nationalism, pharmaceutical monopolies and inequality’ for the entire world not being vaccinated by now.
The UK has vowed to donate 100million coronavirus vaccine doses within the next year to low-income countries as part of at least 1billion doses due from the G7. There have been a number of African countries, including Nigeria, where more than one million doses were destroyed last year because they expired after low uptake saw just two per cent of the population fully vaccinated in 2021.
In December experts said up to one third of Africa’s Covid vaccine deliveries remain in storage as rollouts are hindered by jab hesitancy and infrastructure problems. The Sussexes have repeatedly called for global vaccine equity, comparing it to the HIV crisis in 1980s and 1990s, and today their Archewell Foundation joined The People’s Vaccine coalition, a group of 90 famous names and organisations demanding vaccines are ‘freely available to everyone, everywhere’.
The couple have today said that ‘world leaders’ and ‘rich nations’ now ‘have the responsibility to change the situation’ in a letter also signed by Charlize Theron and Ban Ki-Moon. Their letter says: ‘The European Union, the United Kingdom and Switzerland continue to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the distribution and scale-up of Covid-19 vaccines, test and treatment facilities in the global south.
‘The transfer of largely publicly funded vaccine technology and know-how from pharmaceutical corporations would fast track production to a matter of months. Yet still today, a handful of these corporations retain the power to dictate vaccine supply, distribution and price – and the power to decide who lives and who dies’.
Despite their stance, critics pointed out that recently the ‘ethical’ Wall Street investment company backed by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex ploughed millions into pharmaceutical companies that develop Covid-19 jabs – despite their calls for vaccine makers to share their research and recipes.
And last year they announced a partnership with Procter & Gamble, the US pharma and consumer goods corporation. The couple’s attack on the British government, the EU and Switzerland came a fortnight after Harry took the Home Office to the High Court over taxpayer funded police protection when he and his family is in the UK. Lawyers for the duke said he now did not feel safe to visit Britain, or to bring his family from their home in the US.
The duke has also taken aim at his own British family since he and Meghan emigrated after quitting as senior working royals in early 2020. They live in a £11million Montecito mansion in California. The People’s Vaccine coalition said today: ‘We are proud to welcome Archewell Foundation to the Alliance and appreciate their support, alongside Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex
‘We will work together to end vaccine inequity and ensure COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are available to everyone’. It came days after Harry spoke of his ‘commitment to a life of service’ as he accepted an award alongside Hollywood A-listers.
The Duke of Sussex and wife Meghan accepted the award from a US civil rights group for their work helping a Texas women’s shelter, promoting Covid vaccines and creating community relief centres in areas affected by the pandemic and natural disasters. Harry, 37, praised his ‘incredible wife’ as the couple urged the global community to support the people of Ukraine.
He said: ‘It’s safe to say that I come from a very different background than my incredible wife, yet our lives were brought together for a reason. ‘We share a commitment to a life of service, a responsibility to confront injustice and a belief that the most often overlooked are the most important to listen to.’ Meghan, 40, said the couple were committed to ‘illuminating those who are advancing racial justice and progress’.