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TB Vaccine

WHO Lobbies for Updated Tuberculosis Vaccines

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a report in which the agency argued for making investments in new tuberculosis (TB) vaccines.

TB is a preventable disease, and there is a vaccine, but millions of people die annually from the disease, mainly in middle- and low-income nations. WHO is on a mission to end TB by 2030, but the agency said “major technological breakthroughs” are needed – and soon.

“There are at least 16 [TB vaccine] candidates under active clinical development; however, a more robust, diverse pipeline is necessary to deliver impact,” WHO wrote in its report. “New approaches and technologies are providing unprecedented scientific opportunities, including drawing on lessons from vaccines against SARS-CoV-2; however, constrained funding is slowing progress.”

WHO conducted a full value assessment to determine the benefits of making serious investments in new TB vaccines. The authors reported that between 2025 and 2050, a TB vaccine for infants could prevent as many as 2.6 million deaths, while a vaccine for adolescents and adults that is 50% effective could prevent as many as 8.5 million deaths. A vaccine that is 75% effective could prevent as many as 12.3 million deaths.

The report authors suggested many other benefits to making these investments, including better health equity, cost-savings, improved antimicrobial stewardship, economic growth, and a healthy return on investment.

“Increased investment in research and development will be instrumental to ensure rapid development and availability of effective TB vaccines, with more diverse funding sources and alignment of funders to address the most pressing needs,” the report authors concluded. “Rapid, equitable introduction and scaling up of use of vaccines will have high public health and economic impacts. Thus, both the public and the private sectors must work together to maintain the affordability of and global access to TB vaccines once they become available.”

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is taking public comments on a draft recommendation that suggests screening asymptomatic adults who are at higher risk, such as those living with suppressed immune systems, patients taking immunosuppressive medications, or people who were born in or lived in areas with a high prevalence of TB.

In 2019, the CDC amended its TB recommendations, suggesting healthcare workers no longer need to undergo annual screening. The agency cited the ongoing year-over-year decline in TB cases in the United States.

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention and Infectious Disease Alert.