Prince Harry thanked frontline workers and made a passionate speech on Sunday about how we are facing "a viral pandemic alongside a digital pandemic." It marked his first official appearance since traveling to the U.K. for grandfather Prince Philip's funeral last month.
The Duke of Sussex attended Global Citizen's"Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World" in Los Angeles and was among the many public figures asking world leaders to step up, highlighting the importance of vaccine equity. He served as campaign chair for the event with wife Meghan Markle, who did not make the two-plus hour trip from Montecito as she's (very) pregnant with their second child. There was no shortage of star power, though.
Selena Gomez hosted the concert at Inglewood's SoFi Stadium, one of the largest in-person gatherings since March 2020, which featured performances by Jennifer Lopez, Foo Fighters, J. Balvin and H.E.R. But it was Harry who had the crowd of thousands buzzing.
Video: Jennifer Lopez, Prince Harry appear at 'Vax Live' concert
Harry made two appearances and received a standing ovation from the audience, which was made up of media and fully vaccinated frontline heroes. When he took the stage for a second time, he spoke about a cause that is clearly personal: misinformation spreading online.
"In today's world, we are so connected like a vast nervous system, whether we are online or not. And much like the virus, there are no borders online. So when vaccine misinformation and disinformation spreads, magnified on social media and in parts of traditional media, it exposes a collective threat to humanity. I believe that misinformation is a global humanitarian crisis, and the crisis is getting worse," he declared.
Harry, who urged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, called out the "stark rise in vaccine hesitancy."
"Hesitancy is not an option. Misinformation is not only simply harming those who believe it, but also those who don't. We must tackle each of these issues head-on: vaccine equity and misinformation," he said. "And if vaccine distribution moved half as quickly as misinformation, just imagine how many lives could be saved."
While the Duchess of Sussex did not appear in person — which was never the plan — Yahoo Entertainment learned she will still be part of the telecast when it airs on May 8. President Joe Biden, first lady Jill Biden and Pope Francis are among those who also made taped appearances.
Despite flying solo, Harry seemed in great spirits. He happily waved and interacted with frontline heroes while walking on and off stage.
"Every single one of you in here are awesome, so thank you," he said at one point.
During Harry's first appearance — which had some women in the crowd literally fanning themselves as they heard his British accent for the first time in person — he said "we are at a defining moment in the global fight against COVID-19."
"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," he remarked. "You spent the last year battling courageously and selflessly to protect us all. You served and sacrificed, put yourselves in harm's way and with bravery knowing the costs. We owe you an incredible depth of gratitude."
Harry added, "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.
"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," he continued. "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."
The concert called on world leaders to pledge a total of $19 billion vaccine doses— the outstanding balance needed by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ACT-Accelerator to get 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as tests and treatments, to the world’s poorest countries by the end of 2021.
The "Vax Live" concert will air Saturday on ABC, ABC News Live, CBS, YouTube, iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations and the iHeartRadio App at 8 PM ET. It will run on FOX at 11 PM ET. YouTube will stream an extended version on the Global Citizen channel, which will include additional performances and appearances.
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