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The World Bank has announced that it is providing over $4 billion for the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines for 51 developing countries, half of which are in Africa.

In a statement released on Thursday, the World Bank said that over half the financing will come from its International Development Association arm on grant or highly concessional terms, as part of its commitment to help low- and middle-income countries acquire and distribute vaccines and strengthen their health systems.

It called on governments, pharmaceutical companies, and organisations involved in vaccine procurement and delivery to help increase transparency and build greater public information regarding vaccine contracts, options and agreements, vaccine financing and delivery agreements, and doses delivered and future delivery plans.

It also asked countries anticipating excess vaccine supplies in the coming months to release their surplus doses and options as soon as possible, in a transparent manner, to developing countries with adequate distribution plans in place.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank Group has approved more than $150 billion to fight the health, economic, and social impacts of the pandemic.

Since April 2020, the Bank has scaled up its financing by over 50 per cent, helping more than 100 countries meet emergency health needs, strengthen pandemic preparedness, while also supporting countries as they protect the poor and jobs, and jump starting a climate-friendly recovery.

“The World Bank is helping developing countries in every region of the world with vaccine purchase and rollout,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director of Operations.

“Significant challenges still remain regarding vaccine deployment and hesitancy. We are taking action on all fronts to tackle these challenges, working in solidarity with international and regional partners to expedite doses to as many people as possible and to enhance disease surveillance, preparedness, and response.”

The Bank’s vaccine finance package is designed to be flexible. It can be used by countries to acquire doses through COVAX, the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) or other sources.

It also finances vaccine deployment and health system strengthening, such as vaccine cold-chains, training health workers, data and information systems, and communications and outreach campaigns to key stakeholders which are crucial to ensure vaccination acceptance.

The Bank’s research shows that 95 per cent of countries have developed national vaccination plans, while 79 per cent have safety measures in place and 82 per cent have prioritisations of populations to receive the vaccine.

However, only 59 per cent have developed plans to train the large number of vaccinators needed and less than half have a plan in place to generate public confidence, trust, and demand for COVID-19 vaccines.

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