BELIZE CITY, Fri. Dec. 18, 2020– The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has announced that they have allocated $1 billion dollars to aid in the vaccine efforts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Belize is one of six nations that will receive support from the IDB for the rollout of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program. This rollout is projected to commence by the first quarter of 2021, says the president of the IDB, Mauricio Claver-Carone.
Amandala participated in a media discussion organized by the IDB on Friday, December 21, and had a chance to speak with President Claver-Carone. We learned that the IDB had to reallocate finances in order to make funds available to aid the vaccine roll-out in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Literally, we rushed and we did some incredible reorganizing, reprogramming to make money available to make sure that’s not an excuse. We’re doing everything in our power with the first quarter in mind, “ Claver- Carone said.
An IDB release states, “The IDB will support countries in three main areas: the purchase of vaccine doses through multilateral efforts, such as the COVAX Facility; institutional strengthening to help countries develop effective vaccine deployment mechanisms; and investment to build immunization capacity and finance operational costs.”
Belize, like many other Latin American and Caribbean countries, is in partnership with the COVAX Facility for the procurement and deployment of vaccines. Thanks to initial funding from the IDB of about $400,000, we have paid the first portion of our commitment to the COVAX facility. This will cover about 120,000 vaccines, or about 30% of our population.
“We are also preparing an investment operation and a joint guarantee of about five million dollars which will be approved in 2021, and that is to buy and deploy more vaccines as necessary, but this was just what was done initially to ensure as expeditiously as possible that Belizeans have access to the vaccine,” Claver-Carone said.
While the vaccine is projected to become available in Belize by April 2021, the specific brand or type of vaccine that will be rolled out is not yet known. This decision is left up to the Pan American Health Organization and the COVAX facility and will depend, naturally, on availability.
At this time, COVAX has invested in twelve different inoculations, according to the IDB President. So, there is no guarantee that we will be getting a vaccine from the top manufacturers like Pfizer or Moderna.
Claver-Carone did say, however, that the vaccine that will enter the country will meet a set of domestic and international guidelines approved by PAHO and COVAX. He added that the IDB is working actively with these groups and specific governments to ensure that distribution of the vaccine is done in an equitable manner, highlighting that the region has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus.
“Latin America and the Caribbean have been disproportionately hit by COVID; as you know, it’s 9% of the world’s population, but yet, is 33% of the deaths by COVID. So, there is no region more important in our view,” Claver-Carone said.
When asked if the timeline set forward by the IDB was realistic, Claver-Carone said, “We have to make it realistic, that’s the point.” He added, “We are a development bank; we’re working with our partners in the health field, the Pan American Health Organization, the pharmaceutical companies, with the US government and others to ensure Latin America and the Caribbean are a priority.”
“We’re doing our job to make sure that money isn’t an excuse, but we need to get there fast, we’re going to continue advocating for it; I think it is realistic, but more importantly, I think we need to make it realistic,” he said.
Still, with the timer on, counting down to the end of the first quarter in 2021, there is still no absolute guarantee that local government or our international partners will have all necessary frameworks in place to carry out national inoculation programs across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Nations across the globe have been at battle with the novel coronavirus for close to a year now. This deadly virus has claimed the lives of almost 1.7 million persons worldwide to date. The only glimmer of hope, now becoming a little more visible, is the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Two companies have successfully rolled out approved vaccines. Pfizer’s vaccine was approved in early December, and just recently, Moderna received approval for the rollout of their COVID-19 vaccine.
The creation of a vaccine in such a short period of time is a feat for the scientific community across the world, and many researchers and scientists are still in the labs, working on the final phase of about 12 other inoculations.