The ability of developing countries in Asia to fight the coronavirus pandemic got a much-needed boost after the Asian Development Bank said on Friday it has launched a $9 billion facility to help nations access and deliver COVID-19 vaccines.
"As ADB's developing members prepare to vaccinate their people as soon as possible, they need financing to procure vaccines as well as appropriate plans and knowledge...to manage the vaccination process," ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said.
Called the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX), it will provide support for procurement and transporting of vaccines from place of purchase to ADB's developing members, as well as investments in distribution systems, like cold-chain storage and processing facilities.
The ADB financing, which will be provided in close coordination with other development partners, including the World Health Organization, may also be tapped to develop or expand vaccine manufacturing capacity in developing members, the ADB said in a statement.
The ADB said it was also making available a $500 million Vaccine Import Facility to mitigate payment risks and facilitate imports of vaccines.
Asian countries are racing to lock in millions of vaccine shots so they will be able to start inoculating their citizens and begin the long road back to normality and help their economies recover from the damage of the pandemic.
Developing Asia is on course to post an economic contraction this year, but probably less than previously thought as China recovers faster than expected, although the prolonged pandemic remains a risk to the outlook, the ADB said on Thursday.
This year's expected contraction would be the region's first in nearly six decades.
For 2021, the region is still forecast to recover and grow 6.8 per cent, the ADB said, as Asian economies gradually revive from the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 14.3 million killed more than 200,000 in Asia and the Pacific.