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WASHINGTON, D.C. Thurs. Dec 17, 2020 (Reuters) – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says it will mobilize $1 billion to help countries in Latin America and the Caribbean acquire and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, adding to some $1.2 billion already committed in 2020.

Latin America’s main development lender said it would also continue to provide funding for other public-health measures, such as more effective testing and tracing, and better clinical management of COVID-19 patients.

“We are expanding our support to help Latin American and Caribbean countries ensure timely access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” said IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone. “The coming months will be critical to altering the course of the pandemic and supporting the recovery of our region.”

The announcement comes amid growing concern about a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the region.

Latin America has been hard hit by the pandemic, and is home to about 20% of the COVID-19 infections and 30% of the deaths , although it accounts for only 8% of the global population, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva told an event on Tuesday.

For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of COVID-19, open in an external browser.

The IDB said the additional funds will help countries buy vaccine doses individually or through multilateral efforts, such as the World Health Organization’s COVAX program; develop effective vaccine deployment mechanisms; and build immunization capacity.

The bank also urged Latin American and Caribbean governments to redouble efforts to prepare national deployment and vaccination plans, and said it was ready to help ensure their successful implementation throughout the region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Reuters reported that the COVAX global scheme to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to poorer countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America faces a “very high” risk of failure due to a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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