The European Commission and the World Health Organisation have warned of an unhealthy competition in the scramble for a vaccine, that could save lives and allow economies to recover. Some officials in Washington have indicated they would seek to prioritise US residents.
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Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called for Covid-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to countries and people that need them most and not the “highest bidder”.
“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 said on Saturday, during a virtual Covid-19 conference organised by the International AIDS Society.
“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors.”
With hundreds of coronavirus vaccine projects under way and governments in Europe and the US investing billions of dollars in research, trials and manufacturing, there is concern that richer nations could scoop up promising medicines, leaving developing countries empty-handed.
The Microsoft co-founder pointed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, established in 2002, and the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, which distributes medicines for some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
“One of the best lessons in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the importance of building this large, fair global distribution system to get the drugs out to everyone,” Mr Gates said.
During the video call, Mr Gates said that the handling of the HIV/AIDS crisis should serve as a model for battling Covid-19, where countries came together to research drugs and made them available across most of the world.