India needs to order 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate 60 per cent of its population and boost investment in fresh capacity, according to an IMF (International Monetary Fund) discussion note. It also endorsed centralised procurement by the Centre and backed deferring the second dose as far as possible.
Co-authored by IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath and Ruchir Agarwal, who is an economist at the agency, the discussion note proposed that to get to 60 per cent coverage "India will need to immediately place sufficient vaccine orders of about 1 billion doses through contracts that incentivise investment in additional capacity and augmentation of the supply chain."
The note also called on the government to centralise vaccine purchase. The Centre has asked states to procure jabs on their own for the 18-44 age bracket.
The IMF on Friday, May 21 unveiled a $50 billion proposal to end the COVID-19 pandemic by vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and at least 60% by the first half of 2022.
Doing so, IMF officials say, would inject the equivalent of $9 trillion into the global economy by 2025 due to a faster resumption of economic activity, with rich countries potentially benefiting the most.
The crisis has killed more than 3.5 million people across the world, and projections point to highly unequal health prospects well into 2022, which pose "severe risks for the world," the IMF said.
IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva told a health summit hosted by the European Commission and Group of 20 major economies that it made sense for rich economies to boost donations to ensure a faster end to the pandemic.
"Advanced economies - asked to contribute most to this effort - would likely see the highest return on public investment in modern history, capturing 40% of the GDP gains and roughly $1 trillion in additional tax revenues," she said in her prepared remarks.
The proposal builds on efforts already underway by the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, United Nations, World Health Organization, and other groups.
Implementing the plan would cost some $50 billion, with $35 billion to be paid for by grants from rich countries, private and multilateral donors, and the remaining $15 billion to be funded by national governments using low- or no-interest financing available from multilateral development banks.
G20 countries had already recognized the need for some $22 billion in grants to tackle the crisis, leaving some $13 billion in additional grants needed to reach the $50 billion, the IMF authors said.
The plan calls for upfront financing, vaccine donations, and moves to ensure free cross-border flows of raw materials and finished vaccines, as well as some $8 billion in investments to diversify and increase vaccine production capacity worldwide.
The IMF projected some 1 billion doses could be donated this year even if countries prioritized their own populations and 1 billion additional doses should be produced by early 2022 to handle downside risks, such as new variants that require booster shots.
While the vaccine supply was still limited, it called for $30 billion in spending on widespread testing, sufficient therapeutics, and preparations for vaccine deployment, as well as $2 billion to evaluate and implement dose-stretching strategies.
Without urgent action, many emerging and developing countries might have to wait until the end of 2022 or later to bring the pandemic under control, they said.