Prince Harry made a virtual appearance at Wednesday’s GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2021 in association with BOSS in London, where he paid tribute to the team of Oxford University scientists and researchers who whose work led to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our heroes of this evening are Professor Sarah Gilbert, Doctor Catherine Green, and the entire team of dedicated Oxford scientists. Their breakthrough research on the Oxford Vaccine has brought the world one of our greatest tools for achieving vaccine equity,” said the Duke of Sussex, as reported by British GQ, speaking to the audience on hand at London’s Tate Modern.

As Harry noted, the team “approached their mission with a humanitarian urgency. In April of last year, the Oxford Team packed up a shipment of research cultures and stealthily sent it to India—an early example of the biotech collaboration we need to bring this global crisis to an end. Until every community can access the vaccine, and until every community is connected to trustworthy information about the vaccine, then we are all at risk. That’s a common refrain my wife and I have heard in convenings with vaccine experts, heads of industry, community advocates, and global leaders.”

Prince Harry - GQ Men of the Year
GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2021 in association with BOSS — GQ Men Of The Year Awards 2021 in association with BOSS

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The prince continued with some sobering statistics. “As people sit in the room with you tonight, more than a third of the global population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s more than five billion shots given around the world so far. It sounds like a major accomplishment, and in many ways is. But there is a huge disparity between who can and cannot access the vaccine. Less than two percent of people in the developing world have received a single dose at this point, and many of their healthcare workers are still not even vaccinated. We cannot move forward together unless we address this imbalance as one,” he added.

Harry also called out those who profit in misinformation, referencing “families around the world are being overwhelmed by mass-scale misinformation across ‘news’ media and social media, where those who peddle in lies and fear are creating vaccine hesitancy, which in turn is dividing communities and eroding trust. This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome COVID-19 and the rise of new variants.”

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Added Harry: “The Oxford Team have done their part. They are heroes of the highest order who gave us an instrument to fight this disease. They are our nation’s pride, and we are deeply indebted to their service. For the rest of us — including global governments, pharmaceutical leaders, and heads of business — we have to keep doing our part. That must include sharing vaccine science and supporting and empowering developing countries with more flexibility. Where you’re born should not affect your ability to survive, when the drugs and know-how exist to keep you alive and well.”

He concluded by thanking Professor Gilbert and Dr. Green, along with their team, including Emma Bolam, Ian Poulton, Laura Walker, Mwila Kasanyinga, Wendy Crocker, Lisa Stockdale, Jamie Fowler, and Syed Adlou, describing them collectively as “a bulwark of humanity.”