WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - World Bank President David Malpass and Jose Manuel Barroso, chair of the Gavi vaccine alliance, on Monday (Apr 12) discussed the importance of countries with excess COVID-19 vaccine supplies releasing them as soon as possible, the World Bank said.

Malpass expressed his desire to work closely with Gavi on a 2022 strategy, including helping expand vaccine production capacity for developing countries, the bank said in a statement.

The two officials also discussed the need for more transparency by countries, suppliers and development partners on vaccine contracts, and regarding national export and supply commitments and requirements, the bank said.

"During their meeting, President Malpass and Mr Barroso discussed challenges facing acquisition and deployment of COVID-19 vaccines by developing countries and the importance of countries with excess vaccine supplies releasing them as soon as possible," it said.

Malpass has been outspoken about the need to accelerate vaccinations to contain the pandemic and limit further economic damage. Last week, he warned the slow rollout of vaccines in Europe could weigh on the region's economic growth.

On Monday, the bank said it had committed US$1.7 billion of US$12 billion that it has made available for vaccine development, distribution and production in low- and middle-income countries, with around US$4 billion expected to be approved by the middle of the year.

Malpass said those funds could be used to make co-payments to the COVAX vaccine distribution initiative, and to buy additional doses beyond the basic 20 per cent population coverage.

With new variants of the virus emerging, public health officials have warned the world could lose the race between the coronavirus and the vaccines meant to stop it due to the slow pace of vaccinations in developing nations.

The World Health Organization is urging more political will to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines and share supplies, including through stalled intellectual property waivers on vaccines through the World Trade Organization.