The Duke of Sussex has blamed “mass-scale misinformation” for vaccine hesitancy.
Harry made a surprise virtual appearance at the GQ Men of the Year awards, where he presented a prize to Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, Professor Catherine Green and the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
He delivered a speech urging governments to do more to vaccinate poorer countries, warning “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”.
The duke said people were being “overwhelmed by mass-scale misinformation,” leading to hesitancy over the jab.
“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,” he said.
“It sounds like a major accomplishment and in many ways it is, but there is a huge disparity between who can and cannot access the vaccine.
“Less than 2% of people in the developing world have received a single dose at this point. And many of the healthcare workers are still not vaccinated.
“We cannot move forward together unless we address this imbalance as one. At the same time, 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 leads to divided communities and eroding trust.
“This is a system we need to break if we are to overcome Covid-19 and the risk of new variants.”
Harry hailed the team behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, who received the heroes of the year award, as “heroes of the highest order” who “have done their part”.
“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,” he said.
“That must include sharing vaccine science and supporting and empowering developing countries with more flexibility. Where you are born should not affect your ability to survive when the drugs and know-how exist to keep you alive and well.”
Elsewhere at the star-studded awards ceremony, held at London’s Tate Modern, singer Ed Sheeran, actor Rege-Jean Page and England manager Gareth Southgate were also honoured.
Line Of Duty star Adrian Dunbar was named television actor of the year and thanked the BBC, the show’s creator Jed Mercurio and his co-stars and “best mates” Vicky McClure and Martin Compston.
“But I’d really like to dedicate this award to my 89-year-old mother Pauline, who beat Covid last week,” he added.
Dame Vivienne Westwood was named game changer of the year during the ceremony.
She used her acceptance speech to call for action on climate change.
The fashion designer said: “We must do what we can.”
She added: “Strike at the very structure of our economy. Our economy is the cause of climate change. Its name is military industrial conflict. It’s a war machine.”
Sheeran, who has been top of the charts for nine weeks with his single Bad Habits, was named solo artist of the year, while Page, the breakout star of the raunchy Netflix period drama Bridgerton, was given the standout performance of the year prize.
Southgate, who led the England team to the final of the delayed Euro 2020 tournament, was hailed as the inspiration of the year.
Sir Anthony Hopkins, who won his second best actor Oscar earlier this year, was honoured with the legend prize.
Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen was given the icon honour, while Arlo Parks was named breakthrough music artist of the year and WandaVision star Paul Bettany won leading man of the year.
The ceremony, hosted by actor Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina, saw Wolf Alice named band of the year.
Hollywood filmmaker Quentin Tarantino was named writer of the year while Team GB and Paralympics GB were given the outstanding achievement of the year prize.
McClure, actress Cush Jumbo, singer Ellie Goulding, model Winnie Harlow and television presenter Alex Scott were among the stars at the event.
Journalist and television presenter Piers Morgan also attended after broadcasting watchdog Ofcom earlier announced he did not breach the broadcasting code with his comments on Good Morning Britain about the Duchess of Sussex.
Radio DJs Clara Amfo and Nick Grimshaw, former footballer Gary Lineker and Love Island host Laura Whitmore were also present.