World Bank President David Malpass announced plans for a $12 billion initiative on Tuesday that will allow low-income countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.
The initiative would provide the funds to deliver vaccines to up to 2 billion people who might otherwise be unable to access them due to their countries’ lack of resources and wealthier nations’ hoarding tendencies, according to the Guardian.
Malpass said the plan aims to put low- and middle-income countries — where the virus is spreading fastest — on an equal footing with high-income countries by ensuring that they have the finances to purchase and deploy vaccines when the time comes.
Many countries have been leading the way in vaccine development, but the World Health Organization stresses that the future doses must be distributed globally and equitably if the world wants to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Economies, families, and livelihoods cannot recover fully until all people are able to work, socialize, travel, and live their lives with hope and confidence,” Malpass said in his announcement of the new initiative. “Broad, rapid, and affordable access to COVID vaccines will be at the core of a resilient economic recovery that lifts everyone.”
Although the pandemic has affected people of all socio-economic backgrounds, the world’s poorest have been disproportionately affected, especially women and children.
In Africa, the virus and its impacts are threatening to push an additional 33 million children into poverty. And in South Asia, the futures of more than 600 million children are at risk as the pandemic exacerbates inequities in health, nutrition, education, and more.
A report this month by UNICEF and Save the Children found that COVID-19 and its impacts have already pushed an additional 150 million children into poverty in low- and middle-income countries.
“The pandemic is hitting developing countries hard, and the inequality of that impact is clear,” Malpass wrote in a Sept. 21 blog post. “The negative impact on health and education may last decades — 80 million children are missing out on essential vaccinations and over a billion are out of school.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Bank has focused on providing aid to developing countries to help them fight the virus.
In April, the group pledged $160 billion for COVID-19 aid over a 15-month period. Within a month, they had reached 100 developing countries, home to 70% of the world’s population, with its emergency response.
The World Bank’s most recent pledge of $12 billion in fast-track financing has yet to be approved by the board, which is expected to consider the plan in early October. But Malpass said he is “encouraged” that shareholders will agree.
In addition to the pledge, Malpass also said that the International Finance Corporation, the World Bank’s private sector arm, is investing in vaccine manufacturers willing to prioritize developing countries.
Many other groups and countries have made commitments to ensure equitable vaccine access. In August, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated $150 million to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer to develop $3 doses for lower-income countries. The European Union also recently committed a large sum — €400 million (about $470 million) — to support COVAX, a global collaboration that ensures fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
Global Citizen has also participated in the fight to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. Through the Global Goal: Unite for Our Future campaign, Global Citizen has mobilized countries and corporations to commit nearly $7 billion to help the world’s most vulnerable people with COVID-19 relief.