World Bank Support for Country Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

KATHMANDU, 3, NEPAL – 2021/01/27: A health worker holds up a vial of Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine to administer to frontlines health workers at the Armed Police Force Hospital. Nepal government is launching the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination campaign against coronavirus (Covid19) starting today. Nepalese Health and sanitation workers deployed in the frontlines will be the first to receive the vaccines in the first phase of the campaign. Over 400,000 such frontline workers will be included in the initial stage. (Photo by Prabin Ranabhat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

With expectations to reach 50 countries amounting to $4 billion by mid-year, the World Bank Group is working with partners on the largest vaccination effort in history to stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

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).

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.

The timing of potential vaccine development was not known when the SPRP was approved, but global vaccine development efforts progressed rapidly. 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-19vaccines, aiming to support vaccination of 1 billion people globally 

International equitable vaccine effort ships 32 million shots to 61 countries

“COVAX works” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, informing journalists that the UN-backed vaccine initiative has distributed more than 32 million vaccines to 61 countries in just one month.  

At the beginning of the year, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had called for countries to work together, so that all States could begin vaccinating within the first 100 days of 2021. 

“177 countries and economies have started vaccination”, he said at a regular press briefing, adding that with just 15 days left before the 100 days are up, 36 countries are still waiting for vaccines so they can start inoculating health workers and older people. 

Of those countries, 16 are scheduled to receive their first doses from COVAX within the next 15 days, leaving 20 nations waiting. 

“COVAX is ready to deliver, but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have”, said Tedros, pointing to the distorting effect of export bans and vaccine diplomacy, which have caused “gross inequities in supply and demand”. 

Moreover, increased demand for shots, and changes of national strategy, have led to delays in securing tens of millions of doses that COVAX was counting on. 

Noting that getting all countries up and running by day 100, is “a solvable problem”, the UN official asked countries with shots cleared for WHO “Emergency Use”, to donate as many as they can as “an urgent stop-gap measure”, so the 20 additional countries can begin vaccinating their healthcare workers and elderly within the next two weeks. 

“COVAX needs 10 million doses immediately”, he said. While acknowledging that contributing doses is “a tough political choice”, he asserted that “there are plenty of countries who can afford to donate doses with little disruption to their own vaccination plans”.  

Currently, many countries who had invested in COVAX in good faith have become frustrated with bilateral deals that have left the vaccine initiative short, said Tedros. 

“WHO and our partners are continuing to work around the clock to find ways to increase production and secure doses”, he added, saying that four more inoculations were being assessed for WHO Emergency Use Listing – at least one of which may be approved by the end of April. 

NIH invests in next iteration of public-private partnership to advance precision medicine research for Alzheimer’s disease

The National Institutes of Health has launched the next version of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP) Alzheimer’s disease program (AMP AD 2.0) to expand the open science, big data approach for identifying biological targets for therapeutic intervention.

AMP AD 2.0 is supporting new technologies, including cutting-edge, single-cell profiling and computational modeling, to enable a precision medicine approach to therapy development. Managed through the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH), AMP AD 2.0 brings together NIH, industry, non-profit and other organizations with a shared goal of using open science practices to accelerate the discovery of new drug targets, biomarkers and disease subtypes.

“Unraveling the complex biological mechanisms that cause Alzheimer’s disease is critical for therapeutic development,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “AMP AD 2.0 aims to add greater precision to the molecular maps developed in the first iteration of this program. This will identify biological targets and biomarkers to inform new therapeutic interventions for specific disease subtypes.”

Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, affects an estimated 5.8 million Americans 65 and older. Because the prevalence of this disease is greater among Black and Latino Americans than among white Americans, AMP AD 2.0 will expand the molecular characterization of Alzheimer’s in brain, blood and spinal fluid samples collected in these diverse populations. These datasets will allow the AMP AD 2.0 research teams to refine the characterization of new targets, discover new fluid biomarkers, define disease subtypes and increase the understanding of causative factors and steps in disease progression. The knowledge gained will inform the development of therapies that can be tailored to different stages of the disease and diverse disease risk profiles.

“AMP AD has helped transform the way we learn about the disease process and identify new targets for treatment,” said Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of NIH.  “By expanding the molecular characterization of Alzheimer’s  disease to be more inclusive of diverse populations and by renewing the commitment to open science practices for sharing data, methods and results, we will enable researchers across the globe to better understand the complex nature of the disease and take a precision medicine approach to the development of effective treatments.”

Bill and Melinda Gates: Covid-19 will change how the world thinks about health forever

At this time last year, the world was just starting to understand how serious a novel coronavirus pandemic could get.

Only a few weeks after we first heard the word “Covid-19,” we were closing our foundation’s offices and joining billions of people worldwide in adjusting to radically different ways of living. For us, the days became a blur of video meetings, startling news alerts, and microwaved meals — and we are well aware of how lucky we are compared to others. Over the past year, Covid-19 has killed over two million people worldwide, sickened millions more, and thrust the global economy into a devastating recession.

The experience of living through a pandemic has driven home what many people in developing countries knew all too well already: Health is the bedrock of any thriving society. If your health is compromised — or if you’re worried about catching a deadly disease — it’s hard to concentrate on anything else. Staying alive and well becomes your priority to the necessary detriment of all other things.

If you live in a wealthy country like the United States, chances are that last year was the first time an infectious disease has upended your life. That’s because in high-income countries infectious diseases are no longer what epidemiologists would call “a meaningful health burden.” In low-income countries, however, infectious diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are still major killers and adjusting life to account for a highly contagious pathogen is unfortunately nothing new. (Just ask the millions of people who sleep under a bed net each night.

But in 2020, a virus that had no regard for borders or geography upended lives all over the world, collapsing some of those distinctions between rich countries and poor countries. In doing so, it brought new meaning to the term “global health.”

In the past, “global health” was rarely used to mean the health of everyone, everywhere. Instead, “global health” was a term that people in rich countries used to refer to the health of people in non-rich countries — essentially a synonym for “developing country health.” If you attended a global health conference any time in the last decade, you were much more likely to hear about diseases in Uganda than diseases in the United States.

This past year, though, that changed. In 2020, global health went local. We all saw firsthand how quickly a disease you’ve never heard of in a place you may have never been can become a public health emergency right in your own backyard. Viruses like Covid-19 remind us that, for all our differences, everyone in this world is connected by a microscopic network of germs and particles — and that, like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Although history will probably remember these as the darkest days of the pandemic, hope is finally on the horizon. It’s possible that by the time you read this, you or someone you know may have already received a Covid-19 vaccine. The fact that these vaccines are already becoming available is, we think, pretty remarkable — and all credit is due to the largest public health effort the world has ever seen. No one country or company could have achieved this alone: Funders around the world pooled resources, competitors shared research findings, and everyone involved had a head start thanks to many years of global investment in technologies that have helped unlock a new era in vaccine development.

Of course, developing safe and effective vaccines is only the beginning of the story. Now, the world has to get those doses out to everyone who needs them — in high-income and low-income countries alike. Until vaccines reach everyone, new clusters of disease will keep popping up all over the world, and lives will continue to be lost. That’s why we were glad to see the United States include $4 billion for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, in its latest Covid-19 relief package. Gavi will play a key role is distributing vaccines to low-and-middle-income countries — and smart policymakers understand that we can’t defeat Covid-19 until we defeat it everywhere.

The two of us are optimistic that the pandemic the world is living through right now will lead to a long-term change in the way people think about global health. Going forward, we hope that rich countries will have a deeper understanding that improving health in low-income countries not only saves lives overseas but also puts us in a better position to defeat the next set of global challenges.

Just as World War II was the defining event for our parents’ generation, the coronavirus pandemic we are living through right now will define ours. And just as World War II led to greater cooperation between countries to protect the peace and prioritize the common good, we think that the world has an important opportunity to turn the hard-won lessons of this pandemic into a healthier, more equal future for all.


Culled from CNN


Remittance flows to shrink 14% by 2021 due to COVID-19

Based on the trajectory of economic activities in many large, migrant‐hosting countries, especially the United States, European countries, and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, remittance flows to Low- and Middle-Income Countries are expected to register a decline of 7.2 percent to $508 billion in 2020, followed by a further decline of 7.5 percent to $470 billion in 2021.

The projected decline in remittances will be the steepest in recent history, certainly steeper than the decline (less than 5 percent) recorded during the global recession of 2009.

This outlook for remittances indicates a more gradual but more prolonged decline (continuing into 2021) than our April outlook (see World Bank 2020c), which forecast a sharper decline in 2020 followed by a modest recovery in 2021.

Despite the projected decline, the importance of remittances as a source of external financing for the LMICs is expected to increase further in 2020.

 Remittances flows to LMICs touched a record high of $548 billion in 2019, larger than foreign direct investment (FDI) flows ($534 billion) and overseas development assistance (ODA, around $166 billion) (figure 1.6).

 The gap between remittance flows and FDI is expected to widen further as the decline in FDI is expected to be sharper (box 1.2).

According to these projections, in 2020, in current US dollar terms, the top remittance recipient countries are expected to be India, China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Egypt, unchanged from 2019). As a share of GDP for 2020, the top five recipients would be smaller economies, including Tonga, Haiti, Lebanon, South Sudan, and Tajikistan. 

According to the World Bank, the foremost factor driving the decline in remittances in 2020 and 2021 is weak economic growth and employment situation in large migrant‐hosting countries such as the United States and Europe.

A second factor affecting remittance flows is weak oil price. The economies of GCC countries and Russia—major sources of remittances to South Asia, South‐East Asia and Central Asia—are highly dependent on oil price.

Outward remittances from Russia seem to have a direct correlation with cyclical movements in oil price. In the case of Saudi Arabia, the correlation is less visible at a quarterly frequency, but the long‐term effects are present; a continued weakness in oil price has affected economic activities and hence employment of foreign workers, and outward remittances have been falling since 2015.

The World Bank notes that a more structural factor in the case of Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries is a shift in their employment policies that favor employment of native‐born workers. In the medium term, outward remittance flows from the GCC countries are unlikely to increase significantly.

World Bank Group Exceeds 2020 Climate Finance Target for 3rd Consecutive Year – $21.4 Billion in Funding for Climate Action

For the third year in a row, Bank Group lending for climate-related investments exceeded the target of 28%, reaching 29% or $21.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2020. 

Photos: 1 – Anam Abbas/Lighting Pakistan; 2 – Dominic Chavez/World Bank; 3 – Bart Verweij/World Bank

During the 2020 fiscal year, the Bank Group identified opportunities for low-carbon, climate-resilient development, and provided supporting advisory services, technical expertise and financial resources.

The Group expanded its efforts beyond sectors more traditionally identified with climate action – such as climate-smart agriculture and renewable energy – to new frontiers.

This includes first-of-its kind innovation in the circular economy, targeted digital development interventions to improve climate resilience, macro-fiscal interventions strengthening regional trade and development with climate-relevant investments, and embedding climate considerations within COVID economic recovery packages.

Already, 2020 looks set to be the hottest year on record, potentially bringing more droughts, floods, and intense storms. All countries – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – could face the compound impacts of climate change and COVID. Recently, India and Bangladesh were hit by the Category 5 Hurricane Amphan, forcing authorities to handle the competing goals of evacuation and social distancing to keep communities safe.

World Bank to deploy $160B to support fight against COVID-19

The World Bank Group, including IFC and MIGA, is prepared to deploy up to $160 billion over the next 15 months to support COVID-19 measures that will help countries respond to immediate health consequences of the pandemic and bolster economic recovery and growth. 

World Bank Group President David Malpass (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“We intend to respond forcefully and massively with support programs, especially for poor countries, involving a significant increase in the provision of our highly concessional IDA credits and grants. In front loading significant volumes of financing during the time of crisis, we will be able to ensure large transfers to IDA countries,” The World Bank stated.

The broader economic program will aim to shorten the time to recovery, create conditions for growth, support small and medium enterprises, and help protect the poor and vulnerable.

On April 2, 2020, the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved a first set of emergency support operations for developing countries around the world, using a dedicated, fast-track facility for COVID-19 (coronavirus) response.

The first group of projects, amounting to $1.9 billion, will assist 25 countries, and new operations are moving forward in over 40 countries using the fast-track process. In addition, the World Bank is working worldwide to redeploy resources in existing World Bank financed projects worth up to $1.7 billion, including through restructuring, use of emergency components of existing projects (CERCs) and triggering of CAT DDOs and spanning every region.

“The World Bank Group is taking broad, fast action to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and we already have health response operations moving forward in over 65 countries,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “We are working to strengthen developing nations’ ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and shorten the time to economic and social recovery. The poorest and most vulnerable countries will likely be hit the hardest, and our teams around the world remain focused on country-level and regional solutions to address the ongoing crisis.”

Responding to widespread supply chain disruptions, the World Bank is also helping countries access critically needed medical supplies by reaching out to suppliers on behalf of governments. The World Bank is also encouraging others to provide financial support to developing countries for the COVID-19 health response.

“This fast response package will save lives and help detect, prevent and respond to COVID-19 in the countries we serve,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, World Bank Managing Director of Operations. “Our country operations will be coordinated at a global level to ensure best practice is quickly shared, including approaches to strengthen national health systems and prepare for potential follow-on waves of this devastating virus.”