About $50 billion may be all it takes to vaccinate all eligible people around the world by the middle of next year, the International Monetary Fund or IMF has said, proposing an investment programme that could have a global economic benefit of around $9 trillion.
The detailed research piece prepared by the IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and colleague Ruchir Agarwal suggests that the goal is to vaccinate 40 per cent of all countries by 2021 and the remaining 60 per cent by the first half of 2022.
"Saving lives and livelihoods should need no justification, but a faster end to the pandemic could also inject the equivalent of $9 trillion into the global economy by 2025 due to a faster resumption of economic activity," the agency said.
The benefit to developed countries - which would have to fund a great deal of this - would be to the tune of $1 trillion in additional tax revenue apart from 40 per cent of the cumulative $9 trillion in global GDP gains, it said.
"Funding this proposal may possibly be the highest-return public investment ever. The window for realising these gains, however, is closing quickly, and action is needed now," the document said.
The proposal's total cost of around $50 billion would include grants, national government resources, and concessional financing.
"There is a strong case for grant financing of at least $35 billion. The good news is G20 governments have already identified as important to address the $22 billion grant funding gap noted by the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. This leaves an estimated $13 billion in additional grant contributions needed," the IMF said.
"The remainder of the overall financing plan-around $15 billion-could come from national governments, potentially supported by COVID-19 financing facilities created by multilateral development banks," it added.
Among the actions suggested in the proposal are upfront grants to COVAX - the global initiative to help developing nations get vaccines - of at least $4 billion. This financing will help finalise orders and activate unused vaccine capacity, according to the IMF.
It also calls for ensuring free cross-border flows of raw materials and finished vaccines and rich countries to immediately donate surplus vaccines.
The plan comes just a week after world health experts issued a grim warning that the second year of COVID-19 was set to be "far more deadly" as India and other countries reel under the worst surge in cases that has already killed thousands.
"We're on track for the second year of this pandemic to be far more deadly than the first," said the World Health Organization's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The pandemic has killed at least 34 lakh people worldwide since the virus first emerged in late 2019 and even countries like India, which is the world's biggest producer of vaccines, has struggled to inoculate a sizeable portion of its population.
As part of its proposal, the IMF has also said that the WHO-approved body that clears medical procurement decisions needs to be more inclusive of nations from the developing world. This will help speed up clearances from vaccines from China, Russia and India.
"The group of countries that are included in the Stringent Regulatory Authority (SRA) list recognised by the WHO to guide medical procurement decisions globally is comprised of 34 high-income western countries plus Japan," the agency said.
"Since most of these countries are thus far not planning to use vaccines developed by the rest of the world (for example, Chinese, Indian, or Russian vaccines), the SRAs have been relatively slow in evaluating non-Western vaccines. This may inadvertently delay adoption of these non-western vaccines by countries around the world," it added.