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The Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, on Tuesday, announced plans to establish a new TB Vaccine Accelerator Council.

Dr Ghebreyesus, who said this at a high-level panel on TB at the World Economic Forum, noted that the adverse impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tuberculosis services had brought the urgency of vaccine development efforts into sharp focus.

He said the Council would facilitate the licensing and use of effective novel TB vaccines catalysing high-level alignment between funders, global agencies, governments, and end users in identifying and overcoming barriers to the TB vaccine development.

“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 prioritised politically and financed adequately,” said Ghebreyesus.

“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,” he added.

According to the WHO, in 2021, approximately 10.6 million people fell sick with TB, and 1.6 million died and drug-resistance continues to be a major problem with close to half a million people developing drug-resistant TB every year.

It stated that the BCG is currently the only licensed TB vaccine.

“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 close to 90 per cent of TB transmissions globally.”

The UN body said, later this year, Heads of States and Governments would meet for a second United Nations High-Level Meeting on TB to review progress against commitments made in the 2018 political declaration.

The meeting will present an important opportunity to correct setbacks in the TB response, which includes the urgent development and delivery of new TB vaccines.

Cc: Punch excluding headline

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