Harry and Meghan slam 'ultra-wealthy' vaccine firms on first post-Megxit trip

Harry and Meghan have made one of their strongest interventions to date and criticised ‘ultra-wealthy’ companies which produce vaccines.

The couple called on pharmaceutical firms to waive their intellectual property rights in order to help production expand in countries with low access to the lifesaving jab.

In a direct speech it would have been unthinkable for them to give if they were still working royals, they said the growing gap vaccine gap between rich and poor nations is becoming a ‘human rights crisis’.

The couple were appearing at the 24-hour Global Citizen Live event in New York, which was staged to push for a worldwide vaccine equity policy.

It was part of a royal-style tour which also saw them meet with the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, despite neither holding a public role.

Recounting conversations with vaccine experts, Harry said: ‘They said many countries are ready to produce vaccines at home yet they aren’t allowed to because ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies are not sharing the recipes to make them.

‘These countries have the means, the ability and the workers to start manufacturing. All they are waiting for is the vaccine intellectual property to be waived and the vaccine technology to be transferred over.

‘By the way, many of these vaccines were publicly funded. They are your vaccines, you paid for them.’

He added: ‘We’re battling more than the virus alone, this is a battle of misinformation, bureaucracy, lack of transparency and lack of access and, above all, this is a human rights crisis.’

The appearance marks Harry and Meghan’s first public outing together since the birth of their daughter Lilibet in June.

Their whistle-stop tour of New York, which has also seen them visit a Harlem school, is their first major public trip following their dramatic exit from the royal fold.

Meghan told the crowd that ‘every single person on this planet has a fundamental right to get this vaccine’ but that this is not happening.

She said: ‘It is wrong that so much of the vaccine supply has only gone to just 10 wealthy nations so far and not everyone else. It’s just not OK.

‘These experts shared that how the vaccine is distributed, and who it’s distributed to, should be left to independent international organisations who know exactly where the doses are most needed.

‘Just think about the millions of vaccines that have been discarded this year. That’s like throwing away life vests, when those around you are drowning.’

The couple are not alone in calling for intellectual property rights on vaccines – which protect the manufacturers exclusive right to licence the technology – to be scrapped, with proponents claiming it would drive up production around the world.

Defenders of intellectual property rights argue the pharmaceutical firms which design and produce vaccines at scale would have less incentive to invest in research and development if they were obliged to give away their products.

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