The Duke of Sussex has warned of “corporate greed and political failure” prolonging the Covid pandemic, comparing a “spectacular failure” of global vaccine equity to the struggle by millions to access HIV medicines.
In a letter read out at a World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS event on World Aids Day, Prince Harry said lessons must be learned from the HIV/Aids pandemic.
Vaccinating the world was a “test of our moral character”, he wrote. “It’s time to draw from the lessons we learned throughout the HIV/Aids pandemic, where millions died unnecessarily due to deep inequities in access to treatment.
“Are we really comfortable repeating the failures of the past? Everything I’ve learned from the youth of Sentebale [his charity in Lesotho and Botswana] tells me not. They see how repeating these mistakes is destructive and self-defeating, it is a betrayal of the next generation.”
He said his late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, who helped to highlight the work of Aids charities, would be “deeply grateful” to the scientific community for their work in combating the disease.
Harry and his wife, Meghan, have been vocal campaigners for Covid vaccine equity. In a video for the People’s Vaccine, co-narrated by Harry and the UNAIDS executive director, Winnie Byanyima, he said: “There are striking parallels between Covid-19 and another deadly pandemic, one that emerged 40 years ago – HIV. This is a story about how corporate greed and political failure have prolonged both pandemics and what we can do to stop it.”
The video featured clips of Diana meeting Aids patients, and of Harry and Meghan at the Global Citizen Live event in September, which called for world leaders to adopt vaccine equity policy.
Harry said: “By ending vaccine monopolies and sharing technology, companies in the developing world can start producing Covid vaccines too … Break the monopolies … Deliver a people’s vaccine.”
In the letter, addressed to the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Harry wrote: “Vaccinating the world is a test of our moral character and we are experiencing a spectacular failure when it comes to global vaccine equity. Similar to the Aids crisis, we’ve yet again revealed over the past year that the value of life depends on whether you were born and/or live in a rich nation or a developing country.”
He described the emergence of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 as of “deep concern”. “Now more than ever, the voiceless majority of the world needs to be heard, and the onus is on our leaders to end this pandemic. Anything less is self-defeating,” he wrote.
“That means breaking pharma monopolies that prevent vaccines from getting to communities around the world in need; that means governments honouring their promises and delivering the doses that they committed; that means pursuing international pandemic agreements with strict timelines and holding each other accountable to them; that means treating all human lives as equal lives.”