Exclusive: World Bank seeks board approval for $12 billion coronavirus vaccine financing planExclusive: World Bank seeks board approval for $12 billion coronavirus vaccine financing plan
FILE PHOTO: World Bank Group President Malpass attends news conference after meeting at Chancellery in Berlin

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President David Malpass said on Tuesday he is seeking board approval for a $12 billion coronavirus vaccine financing plan to help poor and developing countries secure a sufficient share of vaccine doses when they become available in the coming months.

Malpass told Reuters in an exclusive interview that the initiative, part of $160 billion in coronavirus aid financing pledged by the multilateral lender, is aimed at helping countries procure and distribute vaccines early to health care and other essential workers and expand global production. He said the board was expected to consider the plan in early October.

Global competition for early coronairus vaccine doses is already fierce, months ahead of any approvals, as wealthy countries move to secure supplies.

The U.S. government has pledged over $3 billion to secure hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines under development by Britain’s AstraZeneca <AZN.L> and by U.S. drug giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech SE <22UAy.F>.

Malpass said the World Bank plan aimed to put poor and middle-income countries, where the virus is spreading most rapidly, on the same footing as richer countries by ensuring have financing to secure supplies and a system for distribution, which will encourage drug makers to meet their demand.

Without early doses that can bring outbreaks under control, many of these countries risk economic collapse that will push hundreds of millions of people back into poverty.

“Our goal is to alter the course of the pandemic for the low and middle income developing countries,” Malpass said. “This is a market signal to the manufacturers that there will be financing available for the developing countries and there will be demand. We will begin asking the manufacturers to begin creating allocations for these countries.”Malpass said the World Bank also was asking wealthy countries that have “over-reserved” more doses than they will ultimately need, to release those doses to poorer countries.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Gregorio)