IMF says $50bn needed to end Covid pandemic in 2022

The world could “end the pandemic” in mid-2022 by vaccinating 60 per cent of the population at a cost of $50bn, according to the IMF.

Countries with sufficient vaccine supply could afford to donate 1bn doses in 2021, even while continuing to prioritise the immunisation of their own populations, the IMF said in a report published on Friday.

Combined with upfront financing, the Covid-19 vaccine donations would bring a faster end to the pandemic, saving millions of lives and yielding economic benefits of about $9tn to global gross domestic product by 2025, it estimated.

The $50bn figure is tiny compared with the $16tn that the IMF estimates countries have already spent supporting households and businesses during the pandemic. But some health experts say the biggest impediments to vaccination drives are not funding but logistics and national politics.

The IMF report warned: “In the absence of urgent actions, many emerging and developing economies may have to wait until the end of 2022 or later to bring the pandemic under control. That will be too late not just for those countries but also for the world.”

While some countries have begun to celebrate falling infection rates, successful vaccination campaigns and a return to some semblance of normality, global cases of Covid infections are at present at some of the highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

Though the UK has vaccinated 60 per cent of its adults with at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, most African countries have immunised less than 1 per cent of their population.

The IMF said the world should aim to have vaccinated 40 per cent of all countries’ populations by the end of 2021 and at least 60 per cent by the middle of 2022.

To date, about 1.6bn vaccinations have been administered worldwide out of a global population of almost 8bn, according to Financial Times data. But vaccination campaigns continue to be interrupted by practical and political difficulties.

Manufacturing has been constrained by shortages of key materials and supply disrupted by export controls in leading producers such as India. The possibility that the mutating virus will undermine the efficacy of existing shots has also raised concerns that the pandemic could drag on, even if the manufacturing and supply problems are overcome.

To prevent the spread of new and more virulent variants of Sars-Cov-2, the IMF outlined the need to invest in widespread deployment of test-and-trace initiatives as a precautionary measures.

“The proposal requires not just commitments but upfront financing, upfront vaccine donations and upfront ‘at-risk’ precautionary investments,” Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director told the G20 Health Summit. “It is essential that all necessary financing is available immediately.”

The measures could be funded with $35bn in grants from donor countries and $15bn in financing from national governments. The $35bn in donations would include a $4bn increase in upfront funding to the international Covax initiative to increase vaccination coverage in low- and middle-income countries from the current target of 20 per cent to 30 per cent by the end of this year.

The report suggested vaccine production capacity had already become less of a constraint on vaccination than previously feared. The IMF “conservatively” expected “at least 6bn vaccine doses [to be] produced and administered worldwide by the end of 2021”, it said.

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