The World Bank’s board of executive directors approved $12 billion on Tuesday to increase low- and middle-income countries’ access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments.
The approval came two weeks after World Bank Group President David Malpass publicly announced the plan on Sept. 29. The $12 billion is part of the group’s pledge to provide $160 billion for COVID-19 aid to developing countries through June 2021.
Through this new funding package, the World Bank aims to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people. The package will also help developing countries prepare for mass distribution of the vaccine when it becomes available.
“Access to safe and effective vaccines and strengthened delivery systems is key to alter the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts move toward a resilient recovery,” Malpass said in the announcement.
The World Health Organization has stressed that the future COVID-19 vaccine must be distributed globally and equitably if the world hopes to overcome the pandemic.
As rich countries lead the way in vaccine development, the $12 billion initiative will help to even the playing field by supporting countries that would not otherwise have the financial power to secure COVID-19 resources for its people.
Several countries have joined multilateral efforts to ensure equitable vaccine access. Last month, 156 countries agreed on a landmark deal to prioritize the equitable distribution of the future vaccine. The plan, known as COVAX, includes 64 high-income and 92 low- and middle-income countries, and aims to pool resources to purchase 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
The World Bank’s new financing package of $12 billion supports these multilateral efforts, and pushes forward the group’s COVID-19 emergency response programs that are already reaching 111 developing countries.
Malpass also noted in the announcement that the World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, is using its $4 billion Global Health Platform to invest in vaccine manufacturers and ensure that developing countries will be able to gain access to available doses.