Skip to Main Navigation

Expert Panel: Vaccinating South Asia

March 4, 2021

Virtual | LIVE



Watch Livestream event by clicking link above

Thursday, March 4th | 4:30 AM PT | 7:30 AM ET | 5 PM (Kabul) | 5:30 PM (Male, Islamabad) | 6 PM (New Delhi, Colombo) | 6:15 PM (Kathmandu) | 6:30 PM (Dhaka, Thimphu)

Vaccinating South Asia against COVID-19 is vital to save lives and strengthen economic recovery, but many practical issues remain to be addressed. 

Join our LIVE expert panel to discuss these issues. Submit your questions to before the event and be part of the conversation.

  • Speakers

    Opening remarks |

    Hartwig Schafer, Vice President for the South Asia Region, World Bank


    Hartwig Schafer became the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region on July 1, 2018. In managing the World Bank’s engagement in South Asia to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity, Schafer leads relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. He manages a portfolio of financial support worth more than $50 billion. Before joining the region, Schafer served as the Vice President for Global Themes where he oversaw the World Bank Group’s engagement in corporate priority areas of Fragility, Conflict and Violence, Gender, Infrastructure, Public-Private Partnerships, Guarantees, Climate Change, and Knowledge Management.

    Adar Poonawalla, CEO, Serum Institute


    Adar Poonawalla joined the Serum Institute of India in 2001, after graduating from the University of Westminster in London. Then exporting its products to 35 countries, Poonawalla concentrated on the company’s international market and on getting new products licensed and pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, for supply to United Nations Agencies including UNICEF and PAHO.  As of 2015, the company now exports its products to over 140 countries worldwide, out of which 85 percent of its revenues are from the overseas. He is the recipient of many business and philanthropy awards from CNBC TV18, CNN TV18, Economic Times, Hurun and many others, to name a few in the recent past.

    Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization


    Dr. Soumya Swaminathan was most recently WHO's Deputy Director-General for Programmes. A paediatrician from India and a globally recognized researcher on tuberculosis and HIV, she brings with her 30 years of experience in clinical care and research and has worked throughout her career to translate research into impactful programmes. Dr Swaminathan was Secretary to the Government of India for Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research from 2015 to 2017. In that position, she focused on bringing science and evidence into health policy making, building research capacity in Indian medical schools and forging south-south partnerships in health sciences. From 2009 to 2011, she also served as Coordinator of the UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases in Geneva.

    Santiago Cornejo, Director of Country Engagement, Gavi COVAX


    Santiago Cornejo is the Director for Country Engagement at Office of the COVAX Facility. Prior, Santiago was the Director for Immunisation Financing and Sustainability at the Gavi Alliance working to enable the sustainability of immunization achievements in Gavi’s transitioning countries. Santiago has over 15 years of cumulative work experience in the field of health and immunisation financing. He started his career in 1999 with the Pan-American Health Organization in Washington DC. He has successively held roles with the WHO, the Vaccine Fund and for 6 years with the World Bank in Washington DC. Santiago also worked in academia at the Center for Global Health at the George Washington University. 

    Lalith Weeratunga, Principal Advisor to the President and the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force for National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccine, Sri Lanka


    Lalith Weeratunga is the former Permanent Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka. He entered the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) in January 1977 and has held a number of senior positions in the Public Service as Secretary to the Prime Minister, Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Education & Higher Education, Director General of the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission and Vice Chairman of the National Apprenticeship Board. He had also been Chief Technical Advisor/Vocational Training Specialist in the Regional Office of the International Labour Organization (ILO) for Asia & Pacific, Thailand and had worked as a Consultant of the United Nations Development Programme for the Government of Maldives. Throughout his career, he has served in many Task Forces, Committees, and Governing Councils of Universities, and Boards of Directors of Public Corporations and Statutory Boards.

    Vinod K. Paul, Member (Health) NITI Aayog, Government of India


    Dr. Vinod K. Paul, a paediatrician by training, was on the faculty of the Department of Paediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, since 1985, and served as the Head of the Department for nearly a decade.  He is a globally recognised medical scientist and public health exponent. Government of India appointed Dr Paul as a Member of the National Institution for Transforming India, the NITI Aayog, in August 2017 where he leads the Health, Nutrition and HRD verticals. He has played a pivotal role in formulating the Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY, the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centre Scheme and POSHAN Abhiyaan. Prof. Paul also served as the Chairman of The Board of Governors in supersession of the Medical Council of India for two years from 2018 to 2020. This tenure was recognised for a record increase in undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats, and introduction of telemedicine guidelines, district residency scheme and a plethora of other reforms. Dr. Paul is a part of the core team of the Union Government for Covid-19 pandemic response. He chairs the Empowered Group on Medical Infrastructure and COVID Management Plan, as well as the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19. 

    Moderator |

    Hans Timmer, Chief Economist for the South Asia Region, World Bank


    Hans Timmer is the World Bank's Chief Economist for South Asia. He assumed this position on January 1, 2019. Before that, he was the Chief Economist for the Europe and Central Asia region of the World Bank.  Under his management in ECA, a series of regional reports, most recently, Toward a New Social Contract and Critical Connections, and a series of regional economic updates are produced.  Prior to these positions, Timmer was Director of the World Bank's Development Prospects Group. Timmer is a quantitative international macroeconomist and econometrician with 30 years of management experience in leading teams of modelers, forecasters, and policy analysts. His experience ranges from long-term structural analyses of the economic impact of environmental policies, trade policies, and tax reforms, to short-term monitoring of the business cycle and analysis of monetary and fiscal policies.

  • The 7th South Asia Economic Policy Network Conference on Vaccinating South Asia

    Watch our two days virtual sessions featuring academic paper discussions, a keynote lecture by Nobel Laureate Michael Kremer, a preview of the South Asia Economic Focus and an expert policy panel to discuss issues related to the allocation of scarce vaccine and equity, and the fiscal impacts that purchasing and delivering a COVID-19 vaccine broadly will have on South Asian governments.