Avail COVID-19 vaccine to those most in need, not ‘highest bidder’: Bill Gates

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FILE PHOTO: A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
FILE PHOTO: A volunteer receives an injection from a medical worker during the country’s first human clinical trial for a potential vaccine against the novel coronavirus, at the Baragwanath hospital in Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates called for COVID-19 drugs and an eventual vaccine to be made available to the countries that need them the most, and not to the “highest bidder,” saying 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, founder of Microsoft, said in a video released on Saturday during a virtual COVID-19 conference organized by the International AIDS Society.

“We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors.”

Gates’ remarks come as the world is focused on the development of a vaccine for the disease that have infected more than 12.5 million people globally and killed over 560,000 patients.

The World Health Organization member states in a May resolution tasked the Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus with rapidly identifying and providing options for scaling up the development, manufacture and distribution capacities needed for providing access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines.

As the search for a vaccine continue, there is concern that richer nations could scoop up promising medicines against the new coronavirus, leaving developing countries empty-handed.

The philanthropist’s remarks came as Africa’s COVID-19 infections went beyond the 543,000 mark, with a death toll exceeding 12,400.

An expert heading a potential COVID-19 vaccine trial in South Africa said earlier this week Africa could have a vaccine in the first quarter of 2021 if the ongoing human trials are successful.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 experimental vaccine is one of 19 being tested on humans globally as the world looks to beat the pandemic.

The potential vaccine is also being tested in Brazil by Oxford University scientists who are working with British drugmaker AstraZeneca on development and production.

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