US-born billionaire and philanthropist, Bill Gates, has called for COVID-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to countries that need them most, not to the “highest bidder”.
Speaking on Saturday during a virtual coronavirus conference organised by the International AIDS Society, Mr. Gates said relying on market forces would prolong the deadly pandemic.
“If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidder, instead of to the people and the places where they are most needed, we’ll have a longer, more unjust, deadlier pandemic,” Mr. Gates told the conference.
“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors,” the founder and CEO of Microsoft said.
Given numerous vaccine projects under way, and US and European governments investing dollar-billions in research and manufacturing, there is widespread concern that richer nations could monopolise promising anti-coronavirus medicines, leaving developing countries with nothing.
Recently, The European Commission and the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned of an “unhealthy competition” in the scramble for a medicine seen as key to saving lives and resolving economic chaos sown by the virus.
Mr. Gates said efforts started two decades ago to combat the global HIV/AIDS crisis, when countries came together to eventually make medicines available in most of the world including Africa, can serve as a model for making COVID-19 medicines widely accessible.