ADB approves first loan under its COVID-19 vaccine access facility to the Philippines

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A health worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine during an inoculation drive in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines. Photo by: Eloisa Lopez / Reuters

The Asian Development Bank is providing the Philippines a $400 million loan for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. This is the first loan the bank is providing under its $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility announced in December 2020.

The $9 billion facility is meant to help low- and middle-income countries in the procurement and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. It has a rapid response component focused on the procurement and transportation of the vaccine, and a project investment component focused on the country’s health system to ensure vaccine distribution, delivery, and administration.

ADB officials said the bank had to first conduct an assessment, from how ready the country’s national information system is, to waste management. With millions of vials and syringes needed for nationwide vaccination, it’s important to understand how these will be disposed of properly, said Eduardo Banzon, principal health specialist for the bank’s Southeast Asia Department.

“The last thing we want to do is to see the vaccines arrive, for example in ports in countries, then not [being] used,” he said.

“So it’s not just really saying, ‘OK, here’s the money. APVAX is approved’ ... It’s really making sure there’s going to be a sustainable vaccination program not just for COVID-19, but also subsequently when all of this pandemic is addressed, we can build on that with our overall vaccination program in the Philippines and in other countries,” Banzon said.

He said the time it took to approve the loan “could be shorter, but I think we were responsive in a timely manner.”

There’s still no confirmation which vaccines will be procured with the loan, but it’s expected to fall within the criteria set out by the bank. The vaccine must be procured via COVAX, the global vaccine procurement initiative; receive World Health Organization prequalification, which includes the manufacturing site where the vaccine is produced; or receive regulatory approval from one of the world’s stringent regulatory authorities, which includes the European Medicines Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The bank expects a few more loans under the facility to be approved in the coming weeks.

While the government, in this case, the Philippines, will be the one in charge of entering into an agreement with vaccine suppliers or COVAX, ADB will be directly paying for the vaccines.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is also co-financing the project with $300 million, but ADB officials said that’s still being finalized.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.