The Asian Development Bank (ADB), on Thursday, approved a $1.5-billion loan to India to help the government purchase safe and effective vaccines against Covid.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is expected to cofinance an additional $500 million for the project. The loans will fund at least 667 million Covid vaccine doses for an estimated 317 million people.

Vaccination plan

It will support India’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, which aims to fully vaccinate 944.7 million people aged 18 years old and above, accounting for 68.9 per cent of the population.

Priority groups include health care and frontline workers, senior citizens, and those aged 45–59 years with comorbidities.

“ADB’s support will help the government protect its citizens from further transmission of this disease and save lives,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “Vaccines are critical in overcoming the intertwined health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic, including rejuvenating economic activities, sustaining health services, restoration of livelihoods, and reopening of educational institutions, with renewed focus on social and human development priorities.”

Vaccine delivery system

An ongoing ADB technical assistance grant of $4 million, which includes $2-million support from ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, is helping strengthen India’s vaccine delivery system.

This includes improving the monitoring of biomedical waste management, risk communication, and community engagement to raise awareness on Covid-appropriate behavior and the benefits of vaccination, with a focus on women and vulnerable groups.

This support is being provided in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The project is financed through ADB’s $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility launched in December 2020 to provide rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries.

In 2020, ADB approved a $1.5 billion Covid Active Response and Expenditure Support Program to support India in its immediate pandemic response efforts, and another $300 million loan to strengthen and improve access to comprehensive primary health care in urban areas and to better respond to future pandemics and other emergencies.