Business & Economy

Democratization of vaccines essential for Latin America’s Covid recovery

(Update 1: Adds details of day one, including Mauricio Claver-Carone and Iván Duque comments, new headline, lede)

Barranquilla, Colombia, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- The “democratization” of vaccines and “regional integration” as well as a “sustainable recovery,” will be essential in preventing “another lost decade” in Latin America given the magnitude of the crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the presidents of Colombia and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said Wednesday.

“This crisis is a turning point to reflect on the worst socio-economic crisis in Latin America (…) and prevent another lost decade,” IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone said at a press conference at the end of the first day of the 61st annual meeting of the bank’s Board of Governors held virtually from the Colombian city of Barranquilla.

“The biggest challenge now is the democratization of the vaccine. There is a correlation between vaccination and recovery,” said Claver-Carone, who last year became the first American to head the bank in its six-decade history.

With more than 22.1 million infections and 700,000 deaths since the first case was detected in Brazil in February last year, the health crisis in Latin America is far from over.

Several countries are facing a second wave and vaccine rollouts have been slow, with the exception of Chile, which is one of the world leaders in Covid vaccinations.

While Chile has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its population, other countries such as Guatemala, Paraguay and El Salvador have vaccinated only a few thousand people.

Last week, the IDB announced that it will complement its $1 billion funding program to expand vaccination in Latin America with a legal guarantee of coverage, which should limit the exposure of both governments and pharmaceutical companies in this first phase of vaccination.

The severity of the crisis has placed Latin America at a crossroads.

“In order to carry out mass vaccinations, the IDB’s work is very important,” Colombian President Iván Duque said.

Growth plans need to be redefined towards “a sustainable recovery” to close existing gaps with an emphasis on “energy transition,” given the threat of climate change, he said.

During the first day of the annual meeting, which will conclude on Sunday, the need to increase investment in infrastructure in partnership with the private sector to create dynamism and employment was highlighted.

In another panel, on social inclusion, Juliana Londoño-Vélez, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that the pandemic has forced the “renewal of the social contract.”

The impact on social services has been enormous in Latin America, where schools are fully open only in four countries, and women have not only lost twice as many jobs as men, but are also getting them back at a much slower rate.

A commission comprising of experts to define the conditions and volume of the capital increase is expected to be set up during the meeting.

Claver-Carone has defended the need for a general capital increase for the IDB and set a target of $20 billion to increase available borrowing resources in the region, from the current annual $12 billion.

The bank’s last capital increase took place in 2008.

The meeting continues Thursday with panels on the empowerment of women, the reinforcement of the sustainable potential of the Amazon and innovation as an engine of social inclusion. EFE-EPA

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