The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) trade and supply chain finance programme (TSCFP) has unveiled a US$500mn facility to support the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and related equipment.

The facility will provide unfunded support guarantees for private sector purchases of these items, covering the risk of non-payment. Through risk-sharing with its partner banks, the ADB says that the total amount of the facility could be leveraged to US$1bn.

“The TSCFP is an excellent crisis response vehicle, because we have got the whole structure in place through which we can ramp up or implement targeted support,” Steven Beck, head of trade and supply chain finance at the ADB, tells GTR.

Since April, the TSCFP has helped to offset the economic impacts of the pandemic by supporting about US$3.8bn in trade, including for critical Covid-related goods such as personal protective equipment, test kits and medicines.

“This vaccine import facility will follow the normal course of our transactions,” says Beck. “This facility, leveraging the AAA rating of the bank, is especially important in mitigating risks and enabling the flow of vaccines and related equipment.”

Support granted through the facility will be provided dependent on certain criteria, which include that the flows must be vaccine or vaccine-related, and that any purchases must be consistent with a country’s allocation plan.

Another requirement is that vaccines purchased under the facility must be approved by either the World Health Organization (WHO) or a stringent regulatory authority. So far, the only vaccine to have been approved by an Asian regulator is manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech. The vaccine, which is currently being rolled out in the UK and US, was given the green light by Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on December 14, under its Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR). The country has also signed advanced purchase agreements with other vaccine manufacturers, including Moderna, although the HSA is yet to approve the American biotechnology company’s product.

In August, the TSCFP launched a free tool on its website to trace the supply chains for goods including ventilators, N95 masks, and other key products, to facilitate the process of identifying and addressing bottlenecks. It will now add vaccines to this mapping tool.

The US$500mn facility complements the bank’s US$9bn Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (Apvax), which was launched last week to provide advance resources to the public sector in developing Asian countries to finance urgent vaccine procurement.