By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The World Bank is working tostandardize COVID-19 vaccine contracts that countries aresigning with drug makers, and is pushing manufacturers to bemore open about where doses are headed, as it races to get morevaccines to poor countries, the bank's president said on Friday.
World Bank President David Malpass told Reuters he expectedthe bank's board to have approved $1.6 billion in vaccinefunding for 12 countries, including the Philippines, Bangladesh,Tunisia and Ethiopia, by the end of March, with 30 more tofollow shortly thereafter.
The bank is working with local governments to identify andfill gaps in distribution capacity, after they purchase vaccinesunder a $12 billion World Bank program, and also to standardizethe contracts they are signing with manufacturers, he said.
The bank's International Finance Corp, its private financingarm, has $4 billion to invest in expanding existing productionplants or building new ones, including in developed countries,but needs more data on where current production is headed, hesaid.
"We are eager to be investing in new capacity, but it's hardto do because you don't know how much of the existing capacityis already committed to the various off-takers," Malpass said inan interview with Reuters. New or expanded plants could be usedto produce other types of vaccinations in the future, he said.
The bank's funds could be used to expand plants in advancedeconomies, if the production was earmarked for developingnations, he said.
Malpass welcomed Friday's pledge by the Group of Seven richcountries to intensify cooperation on the pandemic, saying itcould help jump-start deliveries of vaccines to poorercountries, which are lagging far behind rich countries ingetting shots in arms.
Data compiled by Our World In Data, a scientific onlinepublication, showed Israel was leading the world in COVID-19vaccinations, with nearly 82 of 100 people vaccinated, whileIndia and Bangladesh reported less than one person per 100, ManyAfrican countries have not started at all.
Malpass said he was heartened by news about new vaccinescoming down the road, and about Pfizer Inc and BioNTechSE seeking permission to store their vaccine at highertemperatures, which would ease another obstacle to deliveries inlower-income countries.(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons andLeslie Adler)