New Delhi: Microsoft founder Bill Gates said Saturday the Covid-19 medication and vaccines should go to the people who need it the most and not just 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,” a CNBC report quoted Gates as saying at an online 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,” he said.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to claim thousands of lives across the globe every day, medical researchers across the world are working on a war-footing to come up with a vaccine for the deadly virus as early as possible.
However, with countries across the world, especially Europe and the US, investing billions of dollars to develop Covid vaccines, concerns have also arisen that “richer nations” may “scoop up” potential Covid treatment, “leaving developing countries empty-handed”, a Reuters report noted Saturday.
The report said the European Commission and the World Health Organization have cautioned against “unhealthy competition” in the race to develop Covid medication and save as many lives and prevent as much economic loss as possible.
The US now has the world’s highest confirmed cases of Covid-19 totalling 3,355,646, followed by Brazil (1,840,812), India (850,827) and Russia (720,547).
Gates calls for ‘global cooperation’
Speaking at the online event, Gates recalled how countries united to battle HIV/AIDS and made medication available across the world, including in Africa, in the past. He said this should serve as a model method to also make Covid-19 treatment available across the world.
“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,” he said.
Calling for “global cooperation”, Gates said the world would see “remarkable impact” when it has “nations, institutions and advocates working together on this collective response”.
The World Health Organization has said 21 vaccine candidates under clinical trials are currently being tested on human volunteers. Three of these vaccines are in the third phase of the trials.
According to the CNBC report quoted above, the companies that have made the most progress in developing vaccines are US firm Moderna, UK firm AstraZeneca, and Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech.
There is only one Indian company in WHO’s list of 21 candidate vaccines currently in clinical evaluation — ZyCov-D by Ahmedabad-based Cadila Healthcare Limited (Zydus Cadila).
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has also fast-tracked clinical trials of an indigenous Covid-19 vaccine, which it is producing with the Bharat Biotech International Limited (BBIL).
Nine of the 21 vaccines have the involvement of a Chinese research institute or company, while five of the vaccines have the involvement of an American firm. Among others are those being developed by firms from South Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Russia.
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