World Bank President David Malpass is pushing for lower-income countries to begin COVID-19 vaccination campaigns as soon as possible, due to his concern that rolling out vaccines could take longer in resource-constrained settings.
When vaccines do start to become available in greater numbers for more countries, many of them will have to make significant and rapid investments to ensure they have sufficient workforces to deploy them.
“It’s hard to foresee today, but two months from now we may be seeing a situation where there are vaccines available from the newly approved vaccines and [in larger quantities],” Malpass told reporters Monday ahead of the World Bank’s Spring Meetings.
“We are trying to have the two critical paths go in parallel: vaccine supply and vaccinator capabilities,” he said.
What is the gap? According to the bank’s own capacity assessments in more than 100 countries, only 30% had plans in place to scale up the workforces that will be needed to deliver vaccines. The same assessments found that countries’ experiences delivering childhood vaccinations were not good indicators of their readiness for adult vaccination campaigns against COVID-19.
As the world embarks on the biggest vaccination program in public health history, simply getting vaccines to countries is only the beginning of the challenge.
Where is the funding? The World Bank’s board of directors approved a $12 billion package to support COVID-19 vaccination in its client countries. Malpass said Monday that by the middle of this year, the bank plans to have supported 50 countries with projects totaling $4 billion.
“The World Bank works directly with the countries. We help them design their vaccination programs, and then they can use the funding that we provide to hire people and to interact with the international community on getting the job done quickly,” Malpass said.