Any Covid-19 vaccine should be patent-free so the world’s poorest people can also have access to it, a charity has said.
Oxfam called for governments and pharmaceutical companies to guarantee that vaccines, tests and treatments to be patent-free and equally distributed around the world.
The charity said that a vaccine should not be auctioned off “to the highest bidder”.
The call comes ahead of a virtual meeting of the World Health Assembly on Monday, which will be attended by health ministers from 194 countries across the world.
Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland said: “Providing a vaccine to 3.7 billion people could cost less than what the ten biggest pharmaceutical companies make in four months.
"Anything less than guaranteeing that a vaccine is made available free of charge to all people is unacceptable – this is a global pandemic, which demands global responses and solidarity.
"We need safe, patent-free vaccines, treatments and tests that can be mass produced worldwide, and a clear and fair plan for how they will be distributed.
“Once vaccines or treatments are developed, there is also a high risk that rich and powerful governments will outbid poorer nations and force their way to the front of the queue, as they did in the scramble for other essential medical supplies such as personal protective equipment and oxygen.”
"Many poor countries are unable to access essential vaccines and medicines due to patent rules which give pharmaceutical companies monopoly rights and the power to set prices well above what they can afford.
“Delivering an affordable vaccine for everyone will require unprecedented global cooperation.
"Governments must rip up the rulebook and prioritise the health of people everywhere, over the patents and profits of pharmaceutical corporations.
"Governments must ensure that no one is left behind.”
Additional reporting by Press Association