The World Bank will in the next few weeks make some major announcements concerning its efforts to commence the production of COVID-19 vaccines in some African countries.
The bank said it had already begun consultations with some African manufacturing hubs to that end, noting that the move is to ensure that the jabs are available and accessible to poor nations.
Speaking yesterday at the Global Health Summit co-hosted by the European Union and Italy, President of the bank, Mr. David Malpass, stated that there is an urgent need to find faster and more effective ways to get vaccines to people in developing countries and to plan for future health emergencies.
He added that in the first year of the pandemic, the World Bank group committed $108 billion to help countries respond to the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic and authorised $12 billion to help them access and deploy vaccines, with the goal of vaccinating a billion people in developing countries.
According to him, by mid-year, the bank expects to have vaccine support operations in 50 countries with at least $4 billion committed and urged countries, manufacturers, vaccine intermediaries and on-the-ground providers to increase the transparency of their own commitments.
He also urged countries with excess vaccine supplies to release their surplus doses as soon as possible to developing countries that have vaccination operations already in place as well as increase the transparency of delivery commitments.
He said: “Regarding vaccine supplies, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) is making debt and equity investments in health projects and is helping developing countries manufacture vaccines and related supplies.
“As we speak today, Makhtar Diop (Managing Director, IFC) has been meeting with potential manufacturing hubs in Africa and building partnerships with development finance agencies. We’ll be announcing positive developments on this front in the coming weeks.”
Malpass projected that the negative impact of COVID-19 on human capital will be deep and may last decades, noting that over a billion children have been out of school.
“At Tuesday’s Summit on Financing of African Economies, I announced our commitment to provide $150 billion in financing for sub-Saharan Africa over the next five years, a dramatic step up on previous years.
“This draws heavily on contributions from International Development Association (IDA) donors, the World Bank Group’s strong leveraging and mobilisation capabilities, and the reflows from previous loans,” he added.
He stated that it will take large new resources to build resilience to shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that many low and middle-income countries need stronger health systems, both for their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns to succeed and to be able to manage and recover from future outbreaks.
He said to build preparedness, the global community would need major investments in infrastructure and digital connectivity, which are crucial, while maintaining its focus on the particular risks to women, girls, the poorest and most vulnerable.
The Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had said last week that Intellectual Property (IP) waiver alone wasn’t enough to narrow the huge COVID-19 vaccine supply gap between rich and poor countries.
Okonjo-Iweala, while speaking to the European Parliament, had said it was clear that discussions around vaccine patents alone would not suffice, noting that global leaders need to do more to ensure that there is equitable production and distribution of the jabs.