WHO launches plan to accelerate tuberculosis vaccine development

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WHO launches a plan to accelerate the development of a tuberculosis vaccine

The director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has announced the launch of a new TB Vaccine Accelerator Council following the example of COVID-19, when it was achieved. A totally new vaccine will be developed in just one year.

As Tedros highlighted during the event 'Ending tuberculosis: how to achieve it?', held this Tuesday as part of the activities of the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland), this council will facilitate the It will further the licensing and use of new TB vaccines, “accelerating coordination among funders, global agencies, governments and patients to identify and overcome barriers to TB vaccine development “.

Covid Lesson

“One of the most important lessons from the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is that innovative health interventions can be delivered quickly if they are given political priority and adequately financed > The challenges posed by TB and COVID-19 are different, but the ingredients that accelerate science, research and innovation are the same: urgent and early public investment, support from philanthropy, and engagement from the private sector and communities. We believe that the tuberculosis field will benefit from this. There will be similar high-level coordination,” said Tedros.

WHO launches a plan to accelerate the development of a tuberculosis vaccine

Preparing a covid vaccine.

No new TB vaccine has been licensed in 100 years. In fact, BCG is currently the only licensed vaccine against the disease. Although it is moderately effective in preventing severe forms of TB in infants and young children, it does not adequately protect adolescents and adults, who account for about 90% of cases. all over the world.

However, prospects for new effective vaccines against tuberculosis have improved in recent years, with at least 16 candidate vaccines in the development phase, as Tedros recalled. p>

The top leader of the WHO has stated that many of the TB vaccines under investigationThey were already candidates before the pandemic, but that “everyone was focused on finding a vaccine against COVID-19, so its development was accelerated, while some tuberculosis vaccines have been developing for decades.”< /p>

For this reason, Tedros has called for “a renewed commitment and a sense of urgency ” to accelerate the vaccine against tuberculosis. “It can be developed. If it was made for COVID-19, it is clear that it can also be for tuberculosis. If we use the lessons of COVID-19, it is possible,” he insisted.

The vaccine will be a “game changer”

A study commissioned by the WHO in December 2022 estimated the found that, in 25 years, a vaccine that is 50 percent effective in preventing tuberculosis among adolescents and adults could prevent up to 76 million new cases, 8,5 million deaths, 42 million antibiotic treatments and 6,500 million dollars (6,023 million euros) in costs for households affected by tuberculosis, especially for the poorest and most vulnerable.

If it were 75 percent effective, up to 110 million new cases of tuberculosis could be avoided and 12.3 million deaths. The study further suggests that every euro invested in a 50 per cent effective vaccine could generate an economic return of €6 in terms of avoided healthcare costs and increased productivity.

Both India's Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Philippine Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have agreed that the TB vaccine could be a “game changer.” “Just as vaccines were a game changer in the fight against COVID-19,We advocate approving a new TB vaccine by 2025 and making it available to adults and adolescents in TB-affected countries. India is here. The company is fully prepared and at an advanced stage to carry this out”, Mandaviya indicated.

In the same vein, the director of the Wellcome Trust organization, Jeremy Farrar, has defended that the vaccine against tuberculosis would “change the rules of the game“, but he has reiterated that they must be accompanied by other tools, such as diagnostic tests or “strong” health systems.

< p>The WHO launches a plan to accelerate the development of a vaccine against tuberculosis

Farrar has assured that “for the first time” in his career he feels that this decade could be “a real game changer”in the fight against tuberculosis, but has urged not to wait for the vaccine. “We don't know when we will have it. Vaccines will change the rules of the game but when they are integrated into a whole,” he added.

Tuberculosis, “the disease of the poor”

In 2021, more than 10 million people got TB . Despite being a preventable and curable disease, around 1.5 million people die from tuberculosis each year, making it the leading infectious cause of death in the world.

In its annual report, published in October, the WHO warned against This resulted in a 4.5 per cent increase in tuberculosis cases in 2021 compared to 2020, due to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In all, a total of 10.6 million people fell ill and 1.6 million died (including 187,000 among those who were HIV positive).

Tuberculosis is on the rise. caused by the bacterium 'Mycobacterium tuberculosis' and usually affects the lungs. It is spread through the air when people with pulmonary tuberculosis cough, sneeze, or spit. A person only needs to inhale a few germs to become infected.

Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death among people with HIV and also one of the leading causes of death. These are responsible for antimicrobial resistance.

Most people who get TB live in low- and middle-income countries, but it is present all over the world. About half of the people with this disease are found in 8 countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa.

As a result of these According to the data, Tedros has denounced that tuberculosis “is the disease of the poor”, while rich countries, where it is practically testimonial, do not dedicate enough resources or attention.

It seems that it is not the problem of rich countries. It's a pattern we've seen time and time again. In 2014, when Ebola entered the world. When the borders of the rich countries were pushed, the whole world went back. crazy, with only one case. With COVID-19 it was the same reaction. When are we going to stop this behavior? Tuberculosis has to be a global problem. The world should start helping all of humanity because we are one big family,” he argued.

In line, the executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Peter Sands, has lashed out at rich countries for little progress in fighting this disease: “Shame on us. It's a disease that's been with us for a while and we've shown it can be eradicated, but we've allowed millions of people in poor countries to continue to get sick and die.”

As an aspect While positive, Sands has pointed out that in recent years more “political will” against tuberculosis is being perceived. “We have a new generation of tools, the hope After a vaccine, we have better drugs for drug-resistant tuberculosis… But my fear is that having better tools is not going to be enough if we don't have determination,” he added.