Reports say Covid-19 vaccines are soon likely to be announced as having successfully passed all trials and are set to hit the market. Leading pharmaceutical companies around the globe have been putting in their best since the outbreak of the pandemic to not only come up with full-proof vaccines but also to go for mass production as soon as possible. The processes involved are no doubt complex and time-consuming requiring obtaining results of full protection against the virus, that too through various meticulous and painstaking testing protocols. However, given the urgency of vaccines in the wake of mounting death tolls globally, with countries like the USA now experiencing the highest daily infections, efforts have been in place to expedite the process. Russia, the USA, the UK and China are among the leading countries conducting both extensive and intensive research to this end. Although there are unconfirmed reports of the vaccines awaiting formal nod of the World Health Organisation (WHO), chances are high that in around two months' time vaccines are very likely to be marketed. In this likely event, most developing and poor countries are going to face the inevitable-- fund crunch to procure the vaccines.
Bangladesh obviously would figure prominently among many of these countries in a dire need of funds. The government is desperately seeking financial assistance from development partners to procure Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it hits the market. The finance ministry has reportedly asked for more than $1.5 billion from partners to procure and distribute the vaccines. The ministry estimates that Bangladesh might need between $1.65 billion and $2 billion to immunise the country's 165 million people. As part of it, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal last week sought $500 million worth of assistance from the World Bank, to purchase, store, transport and distribute the vaccines. The minister in a meeting held on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings 2020, made the call at a virtual meeting with World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region Hartwig Schafer.
The response, so far, is quite encouraging. It has been learnt that the World Bank Management has asked the Executive Board to approve additional financing of $12 billion to help low- and middle-income countries purchase and distribute Covid-19 vaccines. There may be a need for more funds given the global demand to procure vaccines by all countries at a time. The finance ministry is asking for more than $1.5 billion from all other partners to procure and distribute vaccines. The government earlier this month requested for $500 million from Japan for vaccine procurement. Experts say each person is likely to need two shots which might cost $10-12 per person. The government, reportedly, has plans to seek $300-$400 million from the Asian Development Bank and $200 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The government is also asking for soft loans from the development partners.
It feels good to see the efforts in place to collect funds, both as grants and soft loans, from possible sources. Also, the response, so far, from development partners seems inspiring. After all, the pandemic is overwhelmingly a global crisis and all must come together to fight it.