Health experts seek more effective and affordable vaccines to fight tuberculosis
Global health experts have called on world leaders to improve funding for tuberculosis (TB) in an effort to reduce the disease burden.
Experts who spoke at a virtual press briefing on Thursday said more investment was needed for the world to produce a safe and effective vaccine against the disease by 2025.
In a statement released after the briefing, the executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, Lucica Ditiu, said the Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which was first administered on July 18, 1921, is the only one existing vaccine against tuberculosis.
Ms Ditiu said it was time for world leaders to deliver new tuberculosis vaccines that are effective, safe, fair and affordable.
The activist said; “What the world has achieved over the past year in terms of developing safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines is amazing and deserves to be celebrated,” she said.
“Now is the time to invest the same level of energy and funding in the development of new vaccines against another deadly airborne infectious disease: tuberculosis. “
Burden of tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that often affects the lungs.
In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2020, nearly two million people died from the disease.
The worst impacts are being felt in some of the poorest regions of the world and among vulnerable groups.
Currently, there is only one vaccine against tuberculosis, the BCG vaccine which is 100 years old.
The vaccine has been shown to be effective against tuberculous meningitis and in protecting against severe tuberculosis in infants and young children.
Ms Ditiu, however, said the BCG vaccine offers variable and generally poor protection against lung disease in adolescents and adults, the populations most likely to spread TB in the community.
Produce a new vaccine
David Lewinsohn, president of Stop TB Partnership, said new, more effective vaccines that can prevent tuberculosis in adolescents and adults are needed to stop ongoing transmission.
He said that in 2018, world leaders pledged to develop new tuberculosis vaccines “but failed to provide the necessary investments for it.”
“Despite our best efforts, we are still failing to meet the targets set at the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in 2018, and at this rate, we will not meet the target of the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDG 3.3) of ending tuberculosis by 2030, “he said.
He noted that more than 15 tuberculosis vaccines have been in development for 15 years, but none of them have been approved for use.
He said recent significant trial results suggest that new effective tuberculosis vaccines can be developed in the years to come if the right investments are made.
“With several vaccine candidates preparing for late stage efficacy trials and next-generation mRNA-based vaccines and other new platforms underway, there has never been a better time to invest in tuberculosis vaccine research and development, ”Lewinsohn said.
Caroll Nawina, tuberculosis survivor and advocate for policy change at national, regional and international levels, said effective vaccines are essential to end the tuberculosis epidemic.
“But having a vaccine is not enough if it is not affordable and accessible to all. The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has clearly shown the inequalities and injustices of a system that favors the rich, ”she said.
“We will not accept such a situation in the case of tuberculosis, and we must ensure that future tuberculosis vaccines reach those who need them most. “
Huge funding gap
Ms. Ditiu lamented the lack of funding that already exists to produce a new effective TB vaccine for the world.
She said only US $ 117 million was invested in tuberculosis vaccine research in 2019, against a target of at least US $ 550 million per year for four years to reach the 2025 deadline.
“By comparison, COVID-19 vaccine research has received more than US $ 100 billion in funding over the past year,” she said.
“Today, we call on the world to provide sufficient financial resources and political will by 2023 to enable the deployment of an effective tuberculosis vaccine by 2025. Lessons learned from recent pandemics clearly show that this is the case. possible, ”Ms. Ditiu said.
Improved local financing
Speaking at a press conference to announce the 2021 National Tuberculosis Conference, Bethrand Odume, executive director of KNCV Nigeria, said Nigeria only accounts for 30% of its TB funding.
Mr. Odume explained that 70 percent of funding for the fight against tuberculosis comes from international partners and donors.
The conference, thematic; “Sustaining a Resilient TB Response in Nigeria: Addressing the impact of COVID-19 and other Diseases” is to be held at the Abuja International Conference Center from November 9-11, 2021.
“Funding constraints have remained the main challenge in the fight against this deadly disease in Nigeria and over the past five years has been largely driven by external funding sources,” he said.
He said that to close the estimated funding gap as well as other relevant issues, it is necessary to create a pathway to promote access to research, technologies, innovations and to establish collaborations for the fight against tuberculosis. in Nigeria.
He said the 2021 National TB Conference will provide a platform for all stakeholders to deliberate on the scale and dimensions of the pandemic’s effects on TB control in Nigeria.
“Equally worrying is the growing gap in access to TB services for the pediatric population and other vulnerable groups. “
“Additionally, people with TB are generally more vulnerable to other infections, including a higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19 due to pre-existing lung damage. “
In his speech, the Executive Secretary of Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Ayodele Awe, said the conference would create an avenue to stimulate the generation of new collaborations for local tuberculosis research and innovation.
He said it would also improve synergy, collaboration and integration between TB, HIV and other services, as well as awareness and promotion of best practices in TB programs. in the country.
In addition, the scientific committee chair, Lawal Umar, said the conference will focus on eight thematic areas that will x-ray relevant topics related to the fight against tuberculosis in the country.
Mr. Umar said some of the thematic areas include political commitment, domestic resource mobilization, impacts and lessons learned for the fight against TB, TB in prisons, IDP camps and others. vulnerable environments.
He encouraged scientists, health experts, universities send summaries before the conference.
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