American business magnate Bill Gates called for COVID-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to countries and people who need them most, not to the "highest bidder," saying that 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," Gates said in a video released on Saturday during a virtual COVID-19 conference.
"We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors." With hundreds of vaccine projects underway and governments in Europe and the United States investing billions of dollars in research, trials, and manufacturing, there is concern that wealthier nations could scoop up promising medicines against the new coronavirus, leaving developing countries empty-handed.
The European Commission and the World Health Organization have warned of unhealthy competition in the scramble for a medicine seen as key to saving lives and resolving economic chaos sowed by a virus. In contrast, some officials in Washington have indicated they would seek to prioritize the US residents.
Gates said efforts begun two decades ago to battle 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.