(AP) -- The World Bank has approved $12 billion in financing to help developing countries buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments, aiming to support the vaccination of up to 1 billion people.
The $12 billion “envelope" is part of a wider World Bank Group package of up to $160 billion to help developing countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the bank said in a statement late Tuesday.
The World Bank said its COVID-19 emergency response programs are already reaching 111 countries.
Citizens in developing countries also need access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, it said.
“We are extending and expanding our fast-track approach to address the COVID emergency so that developing countries have fair and equal access to vaccines,” said the bank's president, David Malpass, said in the statement.
“Access to safe and effective vaccines and strengthened delivery systems is key to alter the course of the pandemic and help countries experiencing catastrophic economic and fiscal impacts move toward a resilient recovery,” he said.
The International Finance Corporation, the private sector lending arm of the World Bank is investing in vaccine manufacturers through a $4 billion Global Health Platform, the World Bank said.
Researchers are working on developing more than 170 potential COVID-19 vaccines.
Development and deployment of such preventive vaccines is crucial to helping stem outbreaks of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1 million people and sickened more than 38 million, while devastating economies and leaving many millions jobless.
The world's richest countries have locked up most of the world's potential vaccine supply through 2021, raising worries that poor and vulnerable communities will not be able to get the shots. Meanwhile, an ambitious international project to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the world's poorest people, called Covax, is facing potential shortages of money, cargo planes, refrigeration and vaccines themselves.
The World Bank said it will draw on expertise and experience from its involvement in many large-scale immunization programs and other public health efforts.
The funding also is meant to help countries access tests and treatments and to support management of supply chains and other logistics for vaccinations in developing countries, the bank said.