Microsoft founder Bill Gates on Saturday said that Covid-19 medication and future vaccines should be distributed to people who need them the most and not to "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," Gates, a billionaire philanthropist, said during a remote Covid-19 conference hosted by the International AIDS Society.
"We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors," he added.
As countries and companies race to bring a vaccine to the market, concerns have risen about wealthier nations receiving more drugs than developing countries. There have been calls for future coronavirus vaccines to be treated as public goods for everyone, without profit.
The World Health Organization said that 21 candidate vaccines are currently in clinical trials being tested on human volunteers, three of which are in the third phase of those trials.
U.S. biotech firm Moderna, U.K. pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and China's Sinovac Biotech have made the most progress towards developing vaccine candidates for the coronavirus. However, Moderna, which is working with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, recently said that its late-stage trial for a vaccine will be delayed, possibly by a few weeks.
A potential vaccine being developed by the drug giant Pfizer and the biotech firm BioNTech has garnered immune responses in healthy patients, but also caused fever and other side effects.
Gates said a main takeaway from the battle against HIV/AIDS two decades ago is the significance of creating a fair global distribution system to make drugs available for everyone. He said the AIDS crisis serves as a model in making Covid-19 drugs more equally and widely available, pointing to the 2002 Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria as an example.
"Global cooperation, a resolve to invent the tools and get them out where they're needed most is critical," Gates said. "When we have those things, nations, institutions and advocates working together on this collective response, we do see remarkable impact."