Bill Gates is seen in October 2019.

Bill Gates said that once a coronavirus vaccine is discovered, it should be distributed fairly and not just go to the "highest bidders."

The billionaire Microsoft founder was speaking at a virtual conference on the coronavirus hosted by the International AIDS Society on Saturday.

"If we just let drugs and vaccines go to the highest bidders, instead of to the people and the places where they're most needed, we'll have a longer, more unjust, deadlier pandemic.

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

Gates' appeal follows the United States' buying up of almost the entire world's stock of remdesivir, a drug that has proved effective in helping patients recover faster from the coronavirus.

First-world countries have also been investing billions of dollars in vaccine research, raising questions about whether these countries will be first in line if and when a vaccine is discovered.

Gates said he was optimistic that nations would band together and disperse coronavirus drugs equitably, judging by the global response to HIV/AIDS.

"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."

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