Harry and Meghan: Jobson on 'ill-informed' vaccine appeal
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Two weeks ago Harry and Meghan made a series of appearances around New York that coincided with the UN General Assembly and President Joe Biden’s coronavirus summit. The couple met with political figures, including New York mayor Bill de Blasio and US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and paid a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, just weeks after the tragedy’s twentieth anniversary. The next day, the Sussexes visited a school in Harlem, where Meghan read her new children’s book The Bench to a class in a bid to promote children’s literacy.
Harry and Meghan’s also appeared at the Global Citizen Live concert, a 24-hour event broadcast live from Central Park, which sought to promote equal access to the coronavirus vaccine.
The couple took to the stage to call for vaccine equity and urge pharmaceutical companies to waive their intellectual property rights on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Harry said: “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.”
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He added: “Many countries are ready to produce vaccines at home yet they aren’t allowed to because ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical countries aren’t sharing the recipes with 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.”
However, their claims that rich countries are hoarding vaccines and pharmaceutical companies are unfairly profiting from the pandemic was challenged by Mr Clark in The Spectator.
He argued that AstraZeneca had made their vaccine available at cost price and licensed production to the Serum Institute in India to help low and middle income countries have access to vaccines produced at a lower cost base.
Mr Clark also noted that, while some manufacturers have refused to surrender patents, wealthy countries have donated 300 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to 142 countries with 1.3 billion due to be delivered by the year’s end.
In this way, he argued that, while it may have been cheaper for taxpayers if patents were waived, it “makes little odds” for the recipients of the jab.
The piece also pointed out that over 44.5 percent of the world’s population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more have been vaccinated in India than live in the whole of Europe.
Furthermore, Mr Clark argued that, while only 6.14 percent of people in African countries have had one dose and 4.02 percent have had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine, the continent has been “lightly affected” by the virus compared to Europe.
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He wrote: “It would be extraordinary if vaccination programmes in the UK (1,993 deaths per million inhabitants to date) and the US (2,119) had been delayed so that vaccine doses could be diverted to Tanzania (0.8 deaths per million), Nigeria (13) or Kenya (92).”
Pod Save the Queen is hosted by Ann Gripper and features Daily Mirror royal editor Russell Myers.
Mr Myers cited this article in The Spectator and suggested that Meghan and Harry’s claims against pharmaceutical countries and the West may not “reflect reality”.
He said: “They made a speech at this Global Citizen event.
“It was potentially quite cruelly dubbed ‘woke fest’”.
Ms Gripper interjected: “Or ‘wokestock’ alternatively.”
Mr Myers continued: “I think it’s a good thing that we need to be talking about.
“However I tell you what I did see somebody that sent me which was a piece in the Spectator which was saying that they are wrong about these Covid vaccine patents.
“The idea that there’s a few rich countries that are going out, hoovering up the vaccines and people aren’t being able to get vaccines ‒ hoarding them while the rest of the world doesn’t get them ‒ it doesn’t really reflect reality.
“The pharmaceutical companies might think it’s a bit rich that they are being asked to help out whilst governments are actually helping and there is a scheme happening.
“So it seems like a good point to be arguing however whether there’s a slight bit of misinformation there, I’m not sure.”
He added: “To pitch countries against each other perhaps isn’t the whole picture. Obviously more needs to be done but I think that it’s not altogether a clear cut picture.”
Ms Gripper added: “It’s something that’s been debated in the UK as well, because we went quite early with a lot of contracts and got a lot of vaccines in.
“And then the question is, is it responsible for the UK to be offering boosters and third vaccinations to people here who are already vaccinated and have a good level of protection, when there are so many people in the world who haven’t had their first, so there is that debate and supply questions.”
Vaccine equity is an issue Harry and Meghan have been vocal about for over a year.
Last May the couple were campaign chairs of an international coronavirus vaccination effort, organised by Global Citizen, called Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World.
In early September Harry also gave an impassioned speech at the GQ Men of the Year award ceremony, where he insisted that governments and pharmaceutical companies could do more to vaccinate the world.
Ahead of the Global Citizen’s Live event the Sussexes also joined a World Health Organisation roundtable with world leaders to discuss vaccine equity goals.
Previously, Bill Gates argued that patents are not what is holding back vaccine production.
He said: “There’s only so many vaccine factories in the world.
“There’s not like some idle vaccine factor with regulatory approval that makes magically safe vaccines.
“You’ve got to do trials on these things, and every manufacturing process has to be looked at in a very careful way.”
However, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation later issued a statement saying: “No barriers should stand in the way of equitable access to vaccines, including intellectual property, which is why we are supportive of a narrow waiver during the pandemic.”
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