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Prince Harry calls out big pharma for vaccine inequity: 'They're yours. You paid for them.'

The Duke of Sussex rebuked big pharmaceutical companies for refusing to pass intellectual property waivers on the COVID vaccine.

Prince Harry calls out big pharma for vaccine inequity: 'They're yours. You paid for them.'
Image Source: Prince Harry Visits Nottingham. NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26. (Photo by Joe Giddins - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle made an appearance at the Global Citizen Live concert over the weekend, where the Duke of Sussex passed some scathing remarks against big pharma for vaccine inequity across the world. At present, only 46 percent of the global population has received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Most of those who have been vaccinated reside in "developed" countries in the Global North. Meanwhile, the majority of residents in "developing" countries are yet to receive even their first dose. According to experts, as Prince Harry pointed out, this is because large pharmaceutical companies have chosen not to share the intellectual property required to produce vaccines.


As wealthier nations decide on whether or not to provide booster shots to their citizens, the Global South continues to fight against the ongoing pandemic with no end in sight. Although these countries have the resources to manufacture their own vaccines (rather than procuring them at exorbitant costs), pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to cooperate. At Global Citizen Live, Prince Harry called for vaccine tech to be shared with all. "We have what we need to vaccinate the world," he stated. "But the experts told us here is what is getting in the way. They said many countries are ready to produce vaccines at home yet they are not allowed to because ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies are not sharing the recipes to make them."


He continued following a round of applause from folks attending the concert, "These countries have the means, the ability, and the workers to start manufacturing. All they are waiting for is the vaccine intellectual property [rights] to be waived and for the vaccine technology to be transferred over." Standing beside him, Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, nodded in firm agreement. Prince Harry is right: pharmaceutical companies are yet to sign patent waivers so countries in the developing world can begin manufacturing them. This keeps the prices of procuring vaccines high and more often than not, inaccessible for a majority of the world.


In addition to this, Prince Harry highlighted that most pharmaceutical companies developed COVID-19 vaccinations with the use of public funds. He said, "And by the way, many of these vaccines were publicly funded. They are your vaccines. You paid for them." Again, the Duke's claims were completely true. Since the pandemic began, the United States government has provided an additional $10.5 billion to vaccine companies in order to accelerate the delivery of their products. For instance, the Moderna vaccination emerged as the direct result of a partnership between Moderna and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).


As per experts, vaccinations can only be effective if they are made accessible to all. This is the basic underpinning of herd immunity. In a globalized world, the pandemic may become a perpetual status quo if we do not put the interests of our international community before the profits of a few companies. Pressure is mounting on pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine technology; it is a vital first to mitigating the effects of the pandemic. Alain Alsalhani, a vaccines expert with Doctors Without Bordersโ€™ access-to-medicines campaign, explained, "You need someone to share all the processes because itโ€™s a new technology. One of the problems we have is that the scientific literature about industrial-scale manufacturing of mRNA vaccines is so slim. This is why itโ€™s not just about a recipe, itโ€™s about an active and full tech transfer."


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