The World Bank (WB) has assured Bangladesh of providing US$500 million worth of funds for procuring coronavirus vaccine to be to inoculated all citizens gradually, officials said on Monday.
“The WB in a feedback on our request has recently informed us that it is ready to finance the vaccine procurement,” said a senior official of the Economic Relations Division (ERD).
The fund is likely to be provided as an additional financing for the WB-funded ongoing “Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project”.
After detecting the first coronavirus patient in late March, the WB in April provided $100 million worth of funds from the aforesaid project which will help detect, manage and treat suspected and confirmed Covid-19 cases.
Additional Secretary of ERD Shahabuddin Patwary told the FE that the WB had recently responded positively and agreed to bankroll the anti-Covid vaccine procurement for Bangladesh.
Earlier, he said, they requested the WB to extend financial support for purchasing the vaccine, to be procured after its availability in the international market.
“As Bangladesh is one of the victims of coronavirus, we need foreign funds to procure the vaccines from the international market,” Mr Patwary added.
According to public health experts, Bangladesh is now experiencing the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic as its infection rate has been increasing since early this month.
The number of daily cases was as below as some 1,100 last month which has now increased to more than 2,000.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has sought US$1.50 billion worth of funds from three development partners — the WB, the Asian Development Bank and Japan — for procuring coronavirus vaccine.
The government has estimated some US$1.5 billion funds to be required for procuring the Covid-19 vaccine.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has recently estimated that Bangladesh would require $1.0 to $1.5 billion worth of funds for vaccinating the country’s 165 million people at free of cost, they said.
The ministry requested the ERD to look for the funds from different multilateral and bilateral development partners.
The WB has recently announced $12 billion worth of funds for supporting its member countries for Covid vaccine. Out of the funds, $6.0 billion would be provided from its soft window – IDA — for IDA-eligible countries including Bangladesh.
Mr Patwary said they expected to receive the $500 million funds from the WB during the April-May period this year.
“Soon after getting the fund, we would go for procuring the vaccine from the international market,” he added.
The Bangladesh government has already contacted some renowned vaccine producers including Serum Institute of India, BioNTeck of Germany, Oxford University in the UK, and the Chinese government for getting the vaccine soon after its development.
According to different initiatives across the globe, it was assuming that there was a possibility of developing Covid-19 vaccine in early next year in the world.
Many countries and companies including USA, UK, China, Germany, India, Russia and Bangladesh are working to develop the vaccine against Covid-19. Some of them have already started the trial on human bodies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in its “Fair allocation mechanism for Covid-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility” proposal said 20 per cent priority group of the total population will get the vaccine in the first phase.
Among the priority groups, the health staff and other frontline workers, population beyond 65 years of age, people with co-morbidity are on the list of first priority in 20 per cent vaccination trajectory.
Then the remaining 80 per cent of the total population would get the vaccine at free of cost in the second round.
According to the MoF, it would require nearly $390 to $500 million worth of funds in the first phase to vaccinate 35 million people who are on the priority list.
In the second phase, the country will need another $500 million to $1.0 billion worth of funds for inoculating the remaining people in the country.
A health ministry official said the government was considering vaccination to all the people of the country at free of cost.
According to the official, they would require the allocation of the entire $1.0 billion to $1.5 billion funds in the current fiscal year (FY) 2021 and in next FY2022.
The price of per unit vaccine is yet to be fixed as those are not developed by any companies in the world yet.