Secretary Blinken, UN Deputy Secretary-General Mohammed, Dr. Barroso, Dr. Berkley, and Excellencies.
I am pleased to be participating today. As a founding partner of Gavi, the World Bank Group is a key partner at the country level in strengthening routine immunization, and we are now partnering with you on the largest vaccination effort in history in order to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal, from the beginning of the vaccination planning effort almost a year ago, has been to facilitate a system that can provide the billions of safe vaccinations needed in the near term and lay the groundwork for longer-term prevention of COVID.
Including our Board’s expected approvals tomorrow, the World Bank will have committed $2 billion for COVID vaccines across 17 countries, with the total expected to reach at least $4 billion and 50 countries by mid-year. This financing can be used by countries to make payments to COVAX, including the purchase of additional doses beyond the COVAX-provided 20% as countries aim for higher levels of coverage.
Our financing is available for countries to spend quickly after Board approval, often in a matter of days or weeks. It supports vaccine purchases and also supports deployment – the important business of getting shots into arms. For the poorer countries, much of the financing is on grant or highly concessional terms. The World Bank is working to further increase our available country financing to use all available resources for the vaccination effort.
While COVAX has received financial commitments, accelerated encashment is needed to help COVAX complete the contracting needed to provide its 20% and higher levels. With $4 billion in World Bank funds to be in place by mid-year, we are seeking to purchase through COVAX, especially for the poorer countries, to the extent COVAX has access to supplies.
We need to recognize that the supply of vaccines may be an even more binding constraint than cash flow. Many countries now have dollars available to spend on doses, but rapid deliveries aren’t available.
I would like to underline here the importance for countries that have the prospect of excess vaccine supplies to release them as soon as possible. Because the capacity to deliver and administer shots is limited, it’s imperative that increased supplies begin to flow to developing countries.
We also need suppliers, countries, and their development partners to distinguish between contracts, options, letters of intent, best efforts, and Memoranda of Understanding.
These transparency steps are necessary so that financing can be directed more effectively, and countries can plan for receipt and deployment of vaccines. They are also critical to enable private sector investments to expand supply over the medium and long term. At IFC, we have a $4b Global Health Platform to support efforts to close gaps for essential health equipment and supplies, including vaccines, but effective use of this funding depends on more information about expected supply and demand.
We are working intensively on deployment, to achieve rapid and safe injection of vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine campaign will be unlike any prior vaccination effort – the sheer volume of people, doses, locations, and human resources involved in the exercise will challenge the most resilient of systems, and even the best-laid vaccine deployment plans will be seriously tested.
Our collaboration with GAVI on COVAX and other ACT-A partners has been strong throughout the crisis and shows how we complement each other’s strengths. A robust rollout of vaccines is an integral part of the recovery and can also contribute to future preparedness. We have worked with Gavi, Global Fund, WHO and UNICEF to help governments assess their readiness. The assessments showed that much more is needed in the medium-term to build resilience of health systems. World Bank and MDB financing will play an important role in filling these gaps.
The World Bank Group is placing a special focus on the poorest countries, and is committed to working with all partners toward rapid, fair and equitable access to vaccines. Transparency and international cooperation are key elements of the road forward, and we look forward to continuing these vital vaccination efforts.