BEIJING, May 03, 2021
Accelerating Coordinated Actions for Vaccine Deployment
More than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has seen enormous coordinated international efforts to deal with this public health emergency. The damage that the pandemic caused has been devastating. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), globally, there have been 148 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 3.1 million deaths. The World Bank estimates that 150 million people will be pushed into poverty, with 8 out of 10 of those considered “new poor” coming from middle-income countries. However, the introduction of vaccines will not only help save lives but, according to GAVI, will also prevent the loss of USD375 billion to the global economy every month.
In response to the global pandemic, the international communities have mobilized in record time an exceptional amount of research capacity, funding and resources to develop, manufacture and approve vaccines and to vaccinate the world under the principle “No one is safe until everyone is safe.” The scale and speed of global vaccine manufacturing and in-country vaccination have been unprecedented. However, with the emerging new strains and their rapid spread, it is urgent to have swifter vaccine roll-out and higher vaccine coverage to complement continuous stringent public health measures to reach herd immunity, protect lives and reopen the global economy.
Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have announced funding for vaccine rollout to their members most in need to ensure equitable and inclusive access to safe and efficacious vaccines. As part of these concerted efforts, AIIB recently launched its first vaccine financing under its COVID-19 Crisis Recovery Facility (the Facility) with a loan of USD300 million to support the Republic of the Philippines in the rapid procurement of eligible vaccines.
In addition, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) was established in June 2020 as a multilateral initiative to provide donated vaccines to the world’s 92 poorest countries to cover 20 percent of their population. COVAX partners are providing technical support to help countries prepare for the roll-out and deployment of vaccines to their communities. The approach of multilateral organizations to this public health emergency has been responsive and agile.
However, the vaccine rollout globally has been abysmally slow, reflecting the challenges and risks related to vaccine availability and deployment. Middle-income and rich countries have been able to mobilize resources for their citizens, but are taking a national, instead of a global view, which is leaving the developing world behind. The wealthiest countries have already vaccinated 13-17% of their population; and for four of these countries, their coverage ranges from 36 percent to 58 percent. At the current pace, the wealthiest countries will be able to get 75 percent of their population vaccinated in 6 months to 1.5 years, while for these four countries, they will be able to do it in the next 3 to 6 months.
In contrast, global vaccination is proceeding at a pace of less than 1 percent in Africa and about 4.2 percent in Asia, 20 percent in Europe and 29 percent in North America. For most of the AIIB members which have benefitted from financing under the Facility, less than five percent of their population has been vaccinated. At the current pace, it will take them more than 10 years to get 75 percent of their population vaccinated.
With the world’s wealthiest countries having secured a significant share of the global supply of vaccines for themselves, there is a growing concern on how the rest of the world will have access to affordable, safe and efficacious vaccines. This concern is further exacerbated by the current shortage in the global supply of vaccines from India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and the largest vaccine supplier to COVAX. This shortage is severely delaying the delivery of COVAX-supplied vaccines (including the second doses) to the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Africa.
The challenges of the current unequitable race for the vaccines can only be addressed by swift and accelerated collective actions to increase vaccine availability and speed up vaccine roll-out. These include lifting export restrictions of critical raw materials and vaccines, expanding vaccine production and accelerating vaccine approvals to ensure vaccine availability, particularly for the front-line health workers and the most vulnerable population. Vaccine production and rollout globally and in-country needs to move at a humanitarian emergency pace rather than regular development pace.
Funds from MDBs and advanced economies need to be deployed at a faster pace to accelerate vaccine rollout and support already fiscally stretched poor countries to purchase vaccines from multiple sources. Notwithstanding COVAX’s current delivery challenges, the pool of funds for COVAX itself should be expanded to allow coverage well beyond the 20 percent target. Accompanying these efforts should be enhanced social mobilization and communications to increase demand for vaccine and address vaccine hesitancy.
As part of the gobal coordinated effort, AIIB is playing its part with the launch of its health business and pandemic response through the creation of the Facility. The latter has allowed AIIB to adapt and respond swiftly and flexibly to demands from twenty Members in a fast-evolving situation while retaining focus on the Bank’s mandate. The Facility has enabled AIIB to provide emergency financing, beyond its ordinary operations, to address client needs for funding for public health financing, alleviating liquidity constraints of productive sectors, including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises and women-led businesses, and supporting social and economic response and recovery measures.
Vaccine financing is part of AIIB’s adaptive response to support its Members meet their immediate health sector needs, with priority given to low- and middle-income members. AIIB is joining experienced partner MDBs to cofinance procurement and deployment of eligible vaccines under the Facility. It will adhere to the eligibility criteria for vaccine financing that have been set out by the lead cofinancing partners, including for the selection of safe and efficacious vaccines; to international standards for quality, safety and equity of access to vaccines; and to transparency in vaccine procurement. AIIB’s vaccine financing will include measures to mitigate governance and procurement risks.
Beyond its support under the Facility, AIIB has established a new Social Infrastructure Department and has included its support to the health sector in its new Corporate Strategy, Financing Infrastructure for Tomorrow. This signals AIIB’s increased engagement in support of projects that improve health system resilience and preparedness for future pandemic.
Disclaimer: The contents of this work do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AIIB, its Board of Directors or its members. Any designation of or reference to a specific territory or geographic area, or the use of the term “country” in this work does not constitute and shall not be construed as constituting an express or implied position, endorsement, acceptance or expression of opinion by AIIB as to the legal or other status of any territory or area.
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