World Bank commits $2bn for vaccines in developing nations

Suban Abdulla
·3 min read

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A man receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Jabra Hospital for Emergency and Injuries in Sudan's capital Khartoum on March 9, 2021. - Sudan is the first in the Middle East and North Africa to receive vaccines through COVAX, a UN-led initiative that provides jabs to poor countries, according to children's agency UNICEF. The first batch to arrive was comprised of 828,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which are planned to cover 414,000 frontline health care workers across the country, according to health officials. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP) (Photo by EBRAHIM HAMID/AFP via Getty Images)
World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for political will to bolster production of COVID-19 jabs and share supplies. Photo: Ebrahim HAMID / AFP via Getty Images

The World Bank will have committed $2bn (£1.5bn) in aid by the end of April for coronavirus vaccine purchases, including development and manufacturing in some 40 developing countries. 

Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank's managing director of operations, told a forum that the money is part of around $12bn the organisation has set aside for vaccine purposes in low-and middle-income nations. 

The organisation's president David Malpass said the bank expected this to expand to $4bn across 50 countries by mid-2021, in separate remarks to the lender's development committee

Despite that, health officials at the same forum warned developing countries could lose out if the vaccination pace didn't pick up, amid the spread of the coronavirus and issues surrounding the vaccines meant to stop it. 

World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for political will to bolster production of COVID-19 jabs and share supplies.

The director general also warned existing jabs could be rendered ineffective if the virus continues to spread and mutate. 

"Even those countries who have high coverage of vaccines will not be secure because the new variants that may not be stopped by the vaccines we have, will invade the countries that may have even 100% coverage in a few months."

He called the failure to agree on a plan to waive intellectual property under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the "elephant in the room." He added that the WTO waiver was meant for emergencies like the COVID crisis. 

"We haven’t seen any emergency like this in our lifetime. If we cannot use it now, then when are we going to use it?” the WHO chief said. "The mother of all these bottlenecks is lack of political will."

READ MORE: Europe probes possible blood clot link with Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine

Coronavirus vaccines have been marred by an array of troubles including blood clotting claims as well as political tiffs over supplies and deliveries. 

On Friday, Europe's medical regulator the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said it started a probe into possible links between Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine and blood clotting events.

A statement said EMA commenced a "review" of the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by J&J subsidiary Janssen, following reports that some patients who had received it had developed blood clots.

It noted four cases of blood clots developing after the vaccine was administered, including one fatal case.

The Janssen vaccine is currently only being administered in the United States under an emergency use authorisation. 

In March, EU regulators gave the jab the green light for use across the continent, however it has yet to start rollout. 

Britain's medicines watchdog is currently assessing the Janssen jab for possible authorisation, but has already ordered 30 million doses.

Johnson & Johnson urged those who received the vaccine to seek urgent medical assistance if they start experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, and swelling of the legs.

The announcement came after the EMA and the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency concluded on Thursday there was a probable link between rare forms of blood clotting and AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine. 

Both watchdog's said the side effect was "very rare" and benefits continued to outweigh risks.

WATCH: EU regulator reviewing possible links between Johnson & Johnson jab and blood clots