Prince Harry makes passionate speech for COVID-19 vaccine equity during star-studded concert

By Zach Harper

Prince Harry makes passionate speech for COVID-19 vaccine equity during star-studded concert

Prince Harry appeared at the May 2 Global Citizen VAX LIVE: The Concert to Reunite the World and made a moving speech urging everyone to do their best to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are made available around the world to anyone who wants one.

The Duke of Sussex was on stage twice at the show, which was taped at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium to be broadcast on YouTube on May 8. It featured an audience of frontline and health care workers who have been fully vaccinated, and was intended to urge governments, business leaders and philanthropists to work to ensure coronavirus inoculations are distributed equitably.

"We are at a defining moment in the global fight against COVID-19," the 36-year-old said in his speech. "Tonight is a celebration of each of you here – the vaccinated frontline workers in the audience and the millions of frontline heroes around the world.

"You spent the last year battling courageously and selflessly to protect us all. You served and scarified, put yourselves in harm's way and with bravery knowing the costs. We owe you an incredible depth of gratitude. Thank you.

Harry's appearance was his first public event since returning from the U.K. to attend Prince Philip's funeral last month. Photo: © Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen VAX LIVE

"But we're also coming together because this pandemic cannot end unless we act collectively with an unprecedented commitment to our shared humanity. The vaccine must be distributed to everyone, everywhere. We cannot rest or truly recover until there is fair distribution to every corner of the world.

"The mission in front of us is one we cannot afford to fail out and that's what tonight is about. The virus does not respect borders and access to the vaccine cannot be determined by geography. It must be accepted as a basic right for all and that is our starting point.

"None of us should be comfortable thinking that we could be fine when so many others are suffering. In reality – and especially with this pandemic - when any suffer, we all suffer. We must look beyond ourselves with empathy and compassion for those we know, and those we don't. We need to lift up all of humanity and make sure that no person or community is left behind. What we do in this moment will stand in history and tonight, we stand in solidarity with the millions of families across India who are battling a devastating second wave."

Duchess Meghan will appear via video for the show's broadcast on May 8. Harry appeared without her on May 2 because she is pregnant with the couple's second child, a girl, who is due sometime this summer.

Photos: © Getty Images

RELATED: The best photos from the star-studded Global Citizen VAX LIVE concert

The show was hosted by Selena Gomez and also featured performances from Jennifer Lopez, the Foo Fighters, J Balvin, H.E.R. and Pearl Jam singer Eddie Vedder. U.S. President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, Pope Francis, David Letterman and Chrissy Teigen also made appearances.

The concert took place as India has been hit by a skyrocketing number of coronavirus cases and deaths. The country has recorded more than 300,000 cases a day for more than a week, with more than 700,000 cases being reported over the weekend, according to The New York Times. More than 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 were recorded in the country over the weekend. Experts believe the true tally of deaths and infections may be much higher.

India's current COVID crisis is being driven by two variants: B.1.1.7, known for first being discovered in the United Kingdom, and B.1.617, which was first discovered in India. Hospitals have been reportedly running out of oxygen throughout the country, and the health care system has been stretched, nearly to the point of collapse, by the current surge in cases. These numbers are even more heartbreaking and devastating when you consider India is also home to the world's largest manufacturer of vaccines. India has a goal of vaccinating 250 million people in "priority" groups by July, according to BBC News.

A woman receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a government school in New Delhi on May 3. Photo: © Mayank Makhija/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The show also urged those watching to get vaccinated themselves, if they haven't already done so. While more than half of Americans have received at least one COV1D-19 vaccination dose, vaccination rates are declining, according to The New York Times.

The publication also reports health experts now believe herd immunity will not be reached in the U.S. and the virus will "most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate... for years to come, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers." It says the goal is "unlikely" due to new COVID-19 variants and "persistent" vaccine hesitancy – though if enough people are inoculated, the coronavirus can become a "controllable threat."

So far in Canada, just under 14 million people – or 34 per cent of the population – have received at least one COVID-19 vaccination dose, with just shy of 3 per cent of the population having been fully vaccinated.

Thanks to Harry for making this important speech! When you're eligible to get vaccinated, please do it!

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