SAN FRANCISCO: Microsoft founder Bill Gates has warned about a deadlier pandemic if successful drugs or a COVID-19 vaccine, when developed, go first to the highest bidders and not reach the common people who need it the most. Addressing a remote COVID-19 conference hosted by the International AIDS Society on Saturday, Gates said democratizing the vaccine must be the goal, reports CNBC.
"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," he said.
"We need leaders to make these hard decisions about distributing based on equity, not just on market-driven factors," Gates added. There are at least 21 vaccines currently under key trials, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The fear is that once the vaccine is developed, the rich and the powerful people would grab it first.
However, despite encouraging preliminary data coming from some research labs, a COVID-19 vaccine is nowhere near while new corona cases are mounting in several countries including in India.
No vaccines have yet started their large and critical Phase-III trials in the US. WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has said that AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine candidate is currently the most advanced vaccine in terms of development.
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate, developed by researchers from the Oxford University, will likely provide protection against the disease for one year, the British drug maker's CEO told Belgian radio station Bel RTL recently.
The vaccine developed at the Oxford Jenner Institute is currently on trial in the UK, where over 4,000 participants have enrolled and additional enrollment of 10,000 participants is planned for the clinical trial. The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine has been licenced to AstraZeneca.
"Global cooperation, a resolve to invent the tools and get them out where they're needed most is critical," said Gates at the virtual event. Gates in May said the vaccine development may take at least nine months to two years. "Most of the drug candidates right now are nowhere near that powerful. They could save a lot of lives, but they aren't enough to get us back to normal," the Microsoft co-founder wrote in his GatesNotes blog.
In the absence of an "almost perfect drug to treat COVID-19", it becomes imperative that every person on the planet gets vaccinated against coronavirus.
"Realistically, if we're going to return to normal, we need to develop a safe, effective vaccine. We need to make billions of doses, we need to get them out to every part of the world, and we need all of this to happen as quickly as possible," he said. (IANS)