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WHO to establish tuberculosis vaccine accelerator council

An estimated 10.6 million contracted TB in 2021, with the disease causing 1.6 million deaths

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has unveiled plans to establish a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine accelerator council to speed up the licensing and use of effective novel vaccines against the disease.

Announced by WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a high-level panel on TB at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the new council is intended to bring together funders, global agencies, governments and end users in identifying and overcoming barriers to vaccine development.

Ghebreyesus said: “One of the most important lessons from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is that innovative health interventions can be delivered fast if they are prioritised politically and financed adequately... We believe the TB field will benefit from similar high-level coordination.”

TB, also known as consumption, is a bacterial infection spread through inhaling tiny droplets from the coughs or sneezes of an infected person.

The disease is both curable and preventable, but despite global commitments to end TB by 2030 and the 2018 political declaration on the fight against TB, the epidemic shows ‘no sign of slowing down’, WHO said in a statement.

A WHO Global TB report in 2022 found that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB response had been ‘particularly severe’, with the number of estimated deaths from TB increasing between 2020 and 2021.

The figures show an estimated 10.6 million contracted TB in 2021, an increase of 4.5% from 2020, and 1.6 million people died from the disease.

WHO also reported that the burden of drug-resistant TB increased by 3% between 2020 and 2021, with 450,000 new cases of rifampicin-resistant TB in 2021.

This is the first time in many years an increase has been reported in the number of people contracting TB and drug-resistant TB.

Currently the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which was developed in 1921, is the only licenced TB vaccine. While BCG provides moderate efficacy in preventing severe forms of TB in infants and young children, it does not adequately protect adolescents and adults, who account for close to 90% of global TB transmissions.

A recent WHO-commissioned study estimates that, over 25 years, a vaccine that is 50% effective in preventing the disease among adolescents and adults could prevent up to 76 million new TB cases and 8.5 million deaths.

A vaccine that is 75% effective could prevent up to 110 million new TB cases and 12.3 million deaths.

Article by
Emily Kimber

18th January 2023

From: Research, Healthcare



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