The World Bank (WB) announced on June 30, 2021 that it would be providing over $4 billion for the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines for 51 developing countries, half of which pertain to Africa. More than half of the financing would come from the International Development Association (IDA), the Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries, and based on grant or highly concessional terms. The report along with other news from World bank web site is of interest to us, one of the largest and successful manufacturers of COVID 19 vaccine. The web site address is given below:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/06/30/world-bank-financing-for-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-exceeds-4-billion-for-50-countries

 This financing forms part of the Bank’s commitment to help low- and middle-income countries acquire and distribute vaccines and strengthen their health systems.

This most important news item renews firm hopes of the poorest populations of the world to get rid of the iron grips of the pandemic with least loss of life and revival of normal economic efforts towards prosperity.

Let us analyze the news with its details.

World bank’s clarion call.

WB reiterated as under:

  • Governments from developed/developing world, pharmaceutical companies, and organizations involved in vaccine procurement, supply, and delivery to bring greater transparency, and build effervescent information about vaccine contracts, options, agreements, vaccine financing, delivery agreements, and doses delivered and future plans to deliver more.
  • Countries who booked excess vaccine with surplus or ready cash to release their surplus doses with options as soon as possible, in a direct, and transparent manner to developing nations who have distribution plans already laid out.
  • It is highly likely that poorer nations would get bulk of the financial requirements as could be viewed from WB – (Figures in millions of US $): Europe and central Asia – 201 m, Middle East and North America – 218 m, Latin America and Caribbean – 225 m, South Asia – 922 m, East Asia and Pacific – 1134 m, Africa – 1699 m.

Let us know what was the performance of the WB so far with its promises, and actions. Can we categorically list them? (All information quoted from various WB web sites available from original web site under the first para)

1. On April 2, 2020, at the initial COVID-19 response phase, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a $6 billion Global COVID-19 Response Program (also called the COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Program, or SPRP).

2. The program has reached over 100 countries with emergency operations to prevent, detect, and respond to COVID-19 and strengthen systems for public health preparedness.

3. Recognizing the need for COVID-19 vaccines, on October 13, 2020, the World Bank Board approved an additional financing of $12 billion to the SPRP for developing countries to finance the acquisition and distribution of COVID-19

4. Further, on June 30, 2021, WB President Malpass announced the expansion of financing available for COVID 19 vaccine financing to US $ 20 Billion over the next 18 months, adding $8B to the previously announced$ 12 B.

52 countries starting from Afghanistan to Zambia appear who want financing arrangements for vaccine entering into agreement during the span of March 18, 2021- 28th June 2021. Details of arrangements made for project financing, project details and press release are available in WB web site.

Exactly how would WB help the poorer nations with vaccine or other infrastructural help?

With the most uncertain and largest chaos creating pandemic, COVID 19 presents challenges to be met by scale, speed and specifics unheard of in this century.

The global COVID-19 vaccination campaign will be the largest in history. The delivery of COVID-19 vaccines presents challenges unprecedented in scale, speed and specificities, especially in low- and middle- income countries. In November 2020, anticipating the availability of safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19, the World Bank together with WHO, UNICEF, the Global Fund, and Gavi rolled out readiness assessments in more than 100 low and middle-income countries.

Did WB have any report with its findings?

Some of the main report findings make interesting revelations.

  • The poorer nations did exhibit different levels of preparations to mee the pandemic.
  • Whether their preparation and performance under child immunization programs confirm their readiness to face the pandemic with confidence? Unfortunately, it was not so.
  • Most countries are focusing on strengthening essential aspects of the vaccine delivery chain –enough to advance vaccination schedules and begin inoculating their populations.
  • Some are planning to have and utilize the experience with the pandemic, for preparation of the schedule, planning the availability of vaccine at various points of need and adjust the schedules as per on going vaccinations. They expect the experience may prepare them better to face future eventualities in similar another pandemic, if any.
  • COVID-19 vaccination campaigns offer unique opportunities for countries to upgrade, digitize, and advance their information systems for tracking vaccines and monitoring vaccinations. Without adequate information systems with updating of advanced IT infrastructure, their efforts may yield little results.
  • The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is an opportunity to create environmentally-friendly cold chain that could be of use well beyond the current crisis.
  • Availability of infrastructure like hospitals, human resources to manage the humongous tragedies which also affected even the front- line workers like doctors, nurses, and other specialists who also got affected by the pandemic and died due to unbearable effects of the pandemic.

It is also important to know how did WB prepare itself to face the pandemic on a time scale unheard so far in human mankind?

WB forged strong partnerships with big regional institutions like Africa center for Disease control, West African health organization, and the African Union Commission to enhance cross-border collaboration on disease surveillance, preparedness and response.

WB financed COVID 19 vaccine operations allowed the nations to purchase vaccines through COVAX, through regional initiatives, and by procurement with manufacturers. As such, the Bank has been working closely with AVATT to see that countries in Africa can use World Bank financing to purchase COVID-19 doses through the AVATT initiative as well.

The goal of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, which is an initiative of the African Union Commission, Africa CDC, Afreximbank, the AU Special Envoys for COVID-19, and UNECA, is to provide the continent with sufficient and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines which can be verified with the facts that successful negotiation for 220 million doses of Johnson Johnson’s Janssen covid 19 vaccine for use by African countries.

An option to get 180 million doses based on demand was also provided. It has been planned that AVATT works and coordinates would closely work with the African Ministers of Finance in the efforts towards realizing herd immunity for full reopening of the continent’s economies.

What is the actual utility of WB financing to meet the cruel effects of the pandemic?

Financing with technical assistance, WB is ready to help countries to effectively provide vaccines, expansion of storage, building infrastructure like cold chains, have expert IT systems to track the reach and utilization of vaccines on preplanned schedules. Training of manpower and psychologically help the people to address vaccine hesitancy have proved to be very useful in facing up the pandemic.

Additionally, steps to produce the vaccine in Africa itself are being planned through the private arm of WB, namely, IFC by adequately investing in countries like South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda.

Conclusion : Having been personally affected by the pandemic and also witnessed the death of many close friends, doctors and many important citizens in India, it is not surprising for myself to read, research and look out for the extraordinary tasks undertaken by World Bank to wipe out the tears of the poorest nations who could not face the pandemic individually and expected some one of the statures of World Bank to fill up the vacuum. In a grand scale, as per the expectations of the world, it mobilized the required resources, coordinated with the largest number of individuals, institutions, and nations to draw the work schedule, arrange the finance, and systematically spent time to attend to every nation in need and produce an outstanding work. All of us must be proud of the noble tasks undertaken/being undertaken to meet the pandemic on its terms and come out successful. All of us can thank World Bank for the Herculean tasks undertaken successfully.

*****

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for information purposes only and do not constitute an advice or a legal opinion and are personal views of the author. It is based upon relevant law and/or facts available at that point of time and prepared with due accuracy & reliability. Readers are requested to check and refer relevant provisions of statute, latest judicial pronouncements, circulars, clarifications etc. before acting on the basis of the above write up.  The possibility of other views on the subject matter cannot be ruled out. By the use of the said information, you agree that Author/TaxGuru is not responsible or liable in any manner for the authenticity, accuracy, completeness, errors or any kind of omissions in this piece of information for any action taken thereof. This is not any kind of advertisement or solicitation of work by a professional.

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