TB Vaccine Accelerator Council Announced
Speaking earlier today during a panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced plans to establish a new Tuberculosis (TB) Vaccine Accelerator Council.
The Council will facilitate the licensing and use of effective novel TB vaccines catalyzing high-level alignment between funders, global agencies, governments, and end users in identifying and overcoming barriers to TB vaccine development.
The only licensed TB vaccine, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG), is about 100 years old and offers moderate efficacy in preventing severe forms of TB in infants and young children.
Furthermore, the BCG vaccine does not adequately protect adolescents and adults, accounting for nearly 90% of TB transmissions.
“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 prioritized politically and financed adequately”, said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a WHO press release on January 17, 2023.
“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.
In 2021, approximately 10.6 million people fell sick with TB, and 1.6 million died.
And drug-resistance continues to be a significant problem, with nearly half a million people developing drug-resistant TB every year.
Moreover, a recent WHO-commissioned study, An investment case for new TB vaccines, estimates that a vaccine that is 75% effective could avert up to 110 million new TB cases and 12.3 million deaths over twenty-five years.
The study further suggests that every US$ 1 invested in a 50% effective vaccine could generate an economic return of US$ 7 in terms of averted health costs and increased productivity.
Later in 2023, Heads of State and Governments will meet for a second United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB to review progress against commitments made in the 2018 political declaration.
The WHO confirmed this presents a significant opportunity to correct TB response setbacks, including the urgent development and delivery of new TB vaccines.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website says the BCG vaccine is only considered for people who meet specific criteria.
BCG vaccination should only be considered for children with negative TB tests and who are continually exposed to adults at risk for TB.
The CDC writes that healthcare providers can consult their state or local TB control program for questions about BCG vaccination.