By Asmau Ahmad
The World Bank’s Board of Directors has approved a $400 million credit to Nigeria in additional financing, from its International Development Association (IDA), for COVID-19 vaccine acquisition.
The bank announced in a statement it issued on Friday, in Washington that the fund is meant to provide upfront financing for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine acquisition and deployment within the country.
According to the statement, the grant would be implemented as part of the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Project.
Building on the Federal Government’s plan to break the chain of local transmission of COVID-19 and limit the spread of the virus, the original COVID-19 response program would be expanded to enable equitable access, the statement said.
This is in order to purchase affordable COVID-19 vaccines for 18 per cent, or about 40 million of Nigeria’s population and support effective vaccine deployment to 50 per cent, about 110 million Nigerians.
It also said that the additional financing would allow Nigeria purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines, strengthen relevant health systems that are necessary for a successful deployment and to prepare for future health emergencies.
“Critically, it will permit the acquisition of vaccines to support Nigeria’s objective of having access to vaccines under the right conditions of value-for-money, regulatory approvals, and delivery time, among other important features.
“This will ensure that the government meets its plans to vaccinate 51 per cent of its population in two years.”
World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, said as the Nigerian government continues to tackle the effect of a third wave of the pandemic, it was crucial to continue to vaccinate citizens in addition to the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions.
This, he said, was to avoid the dreadful consequences of another lockdown that left in its wake an economic toll the country was still grappling with.
“This additional funding would ensure that the Nigerian government has the necessary financial resources to keep its vaccination drive going. This would mean that Nigerians will have increased access to the COVID-19 vaccination.”
The World Bank Task Team Leader for the project, Mr Ayodeji Ajiboye, said recognising that there was currently an excess in demand for vaccines from both high-income and lower-income countries, the additional funds would let Nigeria acquire the vaccine at the earliest.
He said it would strengthen the capacity of all states and the Federal Capital Territory to deploy the vaccines.
“It will also strengthen the country’s health system interventions, such as enhancing health-emergency response capacity of health workers, cold chain equipment, disease surveillance, data management and use, and laboratory testing for the long-term.”
The bank recalled that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had deployed over $157 billion dollars to fight the health, economic and social impacts of the pandemic, the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.
Similarly, it also said that it was supporting over 50 low- and middle-income countries, more than half of which are in Africa, with the purchase and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines and was making available $20 billion dollars in financing for that purpose until the end of 2022.