WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The World Bank Group will have committed $2 billion in financing by the end of April for COVID-19 vaccines in some 40 developing countries, World Bank Managing Director of Operations Axel van Trotsenburg said on Friday.
The $2 billion is part of a pool of some $12 billion that the World Bank has made available overall for vaccine development, distribution and production in low-and middle-income countries, van Trotsenburg told a World Bank forum.
David Malpass, the World Bank’s president, said in separate remarks to the lender’s development committee that the bank expects this to expand to $4 billion worth of commitments in 50 countries by mid-year.
But public health officials at the same forum warned that a race between the coronavirus and the vaccines meant to stop it could be lost if the pace of vaccinations in the developing world did not pick up.
World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that existing vaccines could be rendered ineffective if the virus continues to spread and mutate.
“Even those countries who have high coverage of vaccines will not be secure because the new variants that may not be stopped by the vaccines we have, will invade the countries that may have even 100% coverage in a few months,” he said.
Tedros called for more political will to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines and share supplies, including through stalled intellectual property waiver on vaccines through the World Trade Organization.
The WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property, or TRIPS waiver was the “elephant in the room” holding back vaccine production, Tedros said, adding that it was meant for emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.
“We haven’t seen any emergency like this in our lifetime. If we cannot use it now, then when are we going to use it?” Tedros asked. “The mother of all these bottlenecks is lack of political will.”
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