Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus announces plan to save millions of lives at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, January 18, 2023 has unveiled plans to speed up the licensing and use of effective novel vaccines against tuberculosis (TB), the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19 and the 13th leading cause of death worldwide.
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Ghebreyesus announced the creation of the TB Vaccine Accelerator Council at a high-level panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The new Council will bring together funders, global agencies, governments and those with TB to identify and overcome barriers to vaccine development.
One key lesson from #COVID19 is that innovative health interventions can be delivered rapidly, if they are prioritized politically and financed adequately. We believe the #tuberculosis field will benefit from similar high-level coordination. https://t.co/3NdhSMlzd7 #wef23 #EndTB— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) January 17, 2023
An essential lesson from the COVID-19 response is that innovative health interventions can be delivered fast if they are prioritised politically and financed adequately, the WHO director-general said in his opening remarks.
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No new TB vaccines have been licensed in a century. The adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis (TB) services has brought the urgency of vaccine development efforts into sharp focus, WHO said in a statement.
The challenges presented by TB and COVID-19 are different, but the ingredients that accelerate science, research and innovation are the same: Urgent, up-front public investment; support from philanthropy; and engagement of the private sector and communities. We believe the TB field will benefit from similar high-level coordination.
Despite countries making bold commitments to end TB by 2030, in the Sustainable Development Goals, the WHO End TB Strategy and the 2018 political declaration on the fight against TB, the epidemic shows no sign of slowing down.
Approximately 10.6 million people fell sick with TB and 1.6 million died in 2021. Drug resistance continues to be a major problem, with close to half a million people developing drug-resistant TB every year.
TB, also known as consumption, is caused by bacteria that primarily affect the lungs. It spreads through the air when someone with TB coughs, sneezes or spits.
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The disease is curable and preventable, yet, despite global commitments to end TB by 2030, the epidemic shows no sign of slowing down, said WHO.
The Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, developed in 1921, is the only licensed TB vaccine at present. While it 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 nearly 90 per cent of TB transmissions globally.
WHO recently commissioned a study on investing in new TB vaccines, which estimates that over 25 years, a vaccine that is 50 per cent effective in preventing disease among young people and adults could avert up to 76 million TB cases.
Furthermore, every dollar invested in a 50 per cent effective vaccine could generate an economic return of $7 in terms of averted health costs and increased productivity.
Additionally, some 8.5 million lives could be saved, as well as $6.5 billion in costs faced by TB-affected households, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.
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Meanwhile, a vaccine with 75 per cent efficacy could avert up to 110 million new TB cases and 12.3 million deaths.
Countries will meet later this year for a United Nations high-level meeting to review progress on commitments made in a 2018 political declaration on the fight against TB.
WHO described the event as an important opportunity to correct setbacks in response to the virus, which includes the urgent development and delivery of new TB vaccines.
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