Call for investment in TB vaccine research

0
116
tuberculosis drugs

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
A NEW global coalition of tuberculosis (TB) advocates and allied organisations, TB Vaccine Advocacy Roadmap, is lobbying for global investments in TB vaccine research.

Their call comes ahead of the 6th Global Forum on TB vaccines which will be virtually hosted by Toulouse, France, from February 22 to 25.

The group, which consists of representatives of communities affected by tuberculosis, including survivors, researchers and civil society organisations, has a vision of ending the centuries-long global epidemic with effective vaccines.

“We call on Europe to increase and sustain investments in TB research by €320 million annually,” the group said in a statement yesterday.

It added that the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that robust mobilisation of resources could achieve impressive feats of scientific progress.

“But despite the fact that TB remains the second deadliest infectious disease on earth, with a death toll even eclipsing that of COVID-19 in some regions, it has received less than 1% of the research and development (R&D) funding allocated to COVID-19 research,” the group said.

The TB advocates also pointed out that while almost two dozen effective vaccine candidates against COVID-19 had emerged in only two years, the sole existing vaccine against TB was only minimally effective and had not been improved upon for over a century.

Of concern also is that only a few new TB drugs had become available during the past decades, relegating people living with TB to toxic and inconvenient courses of treatment that are difficult to complete.

This has seen the disease becoming tougher to eradicate, and drives 500 000 cases of drug-resistant TB each year.

“On behalf of communities who bear the brunt of society’s failure to prioritise the fight against this devastating and neglected disease, we urge European funders to commit to rectifying the long-standing neglect of TB research. Vaccines are our best hope for a world without TB — it’s time to step up and finally make them a
reality.”

The disruption of health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the countries most affected by TB has erased years of painstaking progress in TB control.

In 2020, the number of people dying from TB increased for the first time in over a decade to 1,5 million people, including
214 000 people living with HIV, for whom TB remains the leading cause of death.

Almost 10 million people fell ill with TB diseases, but only 5,8 million received a diagnosis, a drop of nearly 20% from before the pandemic.

TB remains one of the biggest killer diseases in Zimbabwe, especially among people living with HIV.

Each day, close to 28 000 people fall ill due to TB, and nearly 4 000 people succumb to this preventable and curable disease.

While TB treatment and care is free in Zimbabwe, more than 80% of those in need of TB services face exorbitant costs.

  • Follow Phyllis on Twitter@pmbanje