By Andrea Shalal and Julio-Cesar Chavez
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said on Wednesday said it would mobilize $1 billion to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean acquire and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, adding to some $1.2 billion already committed in 2020.
Latin America’s main development lender said it would also continue to provide funding for other public-health measures, such as more effective testing and tracing, and better clinical management of COVID-19 patients.
“We are expanding our support to help Latin American and Caribbean countries ensure timely access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” said IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone. “The coming months will be critical to altering the course of the pandemic and supporting the recovery of our region.”
The announcement comes amid growing concern about a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the region.
Latin America has been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic, accounting for about 33% of the world’s deaths from COVID-19, although it accounts for only 9% of the global population, Claver-Carone told Reuters in an interview.
“We want to make sure … that we’re ready, because there should be absolutely no excuse for Latin America and the Caribbean not to have access to the vaccine in the first quarter,” he said.
For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/ in an external browser.
The IDB said the extra funds will help countries buy vaccine doses individually or through multilateral efforts, such as the World Health Organization’s COVAX program; develop effective vaccine deployment mechanisms; and build immunization capacity.
The bank also urged Latin American and Caribbean governments to redouble efforts to prepare national deployment and vaccination plans, and said it was ready to help ensure their successful implementation throughout the region.
Earlier on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the COVAX global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America faces a “very high” risk of failure due to a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; editing by Matthew Lewis; editing by Richard Pullin)