glennerster2_Scott OlsonGetty Images)_vaccines Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Pandemic Financing Developing Countries Need

COVID-19 taught the world that establishing novel financial mechanisms in the midst of a pandemic is practically impossible. That is why multilateral development banks must develop the necessary frameworks now to ensure that low- and middle-income countries can purchase medical countermeasures at-risk, just as developed countries do.

CHICAGO – Pandemic preparedness was on the agenda at last week’s Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, held in Washington, DC, a little over four years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Millions of people died, and billions of dollars were spent in the intervening period, but some important lessons of the pandemic remain unlearned.

One glaring example is that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are still unable to invest in medical countermeasures before they are approved. The United States and the United Kingdom employed this “at-risk” strategy to great effect during the COVID-19 crisis. LMICs need the same opportunity.

When a pandemic strikes, governments must act swiftly and invest heavily in technological solutions that may be unproven. Expanding vaccine production when medical trials were ongoing, rather than waiting for regulatory approval, proved critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. The US and the UK, in particular, made early and substantial investments in developing and producing vaccines, securing doses at-risk. In exchange for bearing much of the risk of technological failure, these countries were first in line when the vaccines were found to be effective – a boon for their own citizens. But these investments also helped other countries by accelerating vaccine development and production.