Duke and Duchess of Sussex hit out at 'ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies'

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 Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak during the 2021 Global Citizen Live festival - AFP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak during the 2021 Global Citizen Live festival - AFP

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex hit out at “ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies” for not sharing the recipes for their coronavirus vaccines on Saturday night in a highly political speech at a music concert in New York.

In their final appearance of a three-day tour of the Big Apple, the couple took to the stage in Central Park and decried the “misinformation, bureaucracy, lack of transparency and access” around vaccines.

“We are battling more than the virus alone,” said the Duke. “This is a human rights crisis.”

His pleas were echoed by a passionate Meghan, who 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.”

Striking a familiar tone with the fully vaccinated crowd in New York, the Duke, dressed in a suit jacket and open necked shirt, said: “Guys, we have what we need to vaccinate the world.

“But the experts told us: here’s what’s getting in the way. They said many countries are ready to produce vaccines back home yet they aren’t allowed to because ultra-wealthy pharmaceutical companies are not sharing the recipes to make them.

United Nations, US Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry meet - United Nations
United Nations, US Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry meet - United Nations

“These countries have the means, the abilities 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.

“And by the way, many of these vaccines were publicly funded. They are your vaccines. You paid for them.”

The Duchess asked people to think about the vaccine doses that have expired and been thrown away.

“That’s like throwing away life vests when those around you are drowning,” she said.

The Duke finished by asking the crowd to shout louder in aid of vaccine equity and said: “My wife and I believe that where you’re born should not dictate your ability to survive,” which was greeted by huge cheers.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle listen as US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks - AFP
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle listen as US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks - AFP

The Global Citizen Live event featured a number of concerts in major cities across the world over a 24-hour period. As well as calling for equal access to coronavirus vaccines, the movement called for an end to global poverty and highlighted the devastating effects of climate change.

In London, Kylie Minogue was the headliner, while Elton John and Ed Sheeran played in Paris. Coldplay and Jennifer Lopez entertained the crowd in New York, while Stevie Wonder took to the stage in Los Angeles.

There were also events in Lagos, Mumbai, Rio De Janeiro and Sydney.

Alok Sharma, President of the COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow, also appeared in New York and invited the crowd to call on the biggest greenhouse gas emitters and the G20 nations to make much bolder commitments to cut emissions.

“We must protect our precious planet. The window is closing fast," he said.

On Saturday, the Duke and Duchess, who have designed their own de facto post-royal tour despite no longer having an official diplomatic role, met with Amina Mohammed at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Duchess later declared it a “lovely meeting”.

The high level tete-a-tete was one of several with politicians during their three-day visit to New York, in a trip that has raised eyebrows amid courtiers and British diplomats.

Critics have questioned what or who they are representing, with fans delighting in how doors at the highest level are still open to them.

The Sussexes arriving at the UN headquarters on day three of their tour
The Sussexes arriving at the UN headquarters on day three of their tour
The pair leave the building after their meeting before later heading to a concert in Central Park
The pair leave the building after their meeting before later heading to a concert in Central Park

The couple no longer represent the Queen overseas, having left the working Royal family to pursue financial freedom in the US. When they left, they promised to uphold her values, and continue to use their titles of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in their work.

The Sussexes' trip has also seen Prince Harry - in his role of president of African Parks - meet with the President of Angola, João Lourenço.

Both the Duke and Duchess spent time with New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio during a visit to One World Trade Centre in their first appearance on Thursday.

They were expected to return to their California home after the concert on Saturday night and be reunited with their children Archie 2, and Lilibet, who is three-months old.

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