Joint Statement of the Community and Developing Country NGO Delegations of the Stop TB Partnership Board
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Joint Statement of the Community and Developing Country NGO Delegations of the Stop TB Partnership Board

Joint Statement of the Community and Developing Country NGO Delegations of the Stop TB Partnership Board

On behalf of the Community and Developing Country NGO Delegations of the Stop TB Partnership Board we would like to thank Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, Mr. Olivier Veran, Minister for Solidarity and Health, Ms Frédérique Vidal, Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, as well as all organizers and supporters of the 6th Global Forum on TB Vaccines. You recently have received a letter from us, together with our colleagues in the TB community in the TB Vaccine Advocacy Roadmap. Today, we want to take this opportunity to again highlight the priorities of the TB affected communities.
Tuberculosis was among the first diseases for which humanity developed a vaccine: Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccine, commonly known as BCG, developed in France, was first used in humans almost exactly 100 years ago, in 1921. BCG vaccine represented at its time of resounding success and over years contributed to decreased mortality in children and showed a certain level of protective effects against nontuberculosis mycobacteria, like leprosy.
However, it has limited to no impact on TB – the disease for which BCG was developed in the first place and which continues to kill 1.5 million people every year. Due to its lack of effect on protecting adolescents and adults from becoming infected by or sick with TB, BCG is not a vaccine to end TB by 2030, a target the world committed to achieve under Sustainable Development Goal 3. We need a new vaccine, and we need it urgently. According to current modeling, we will be able to end TB by 2030 with a vaccine becoming available by 2025. And for that to happen, we need to fast-track the trials, particularly phase III trials. We did that with COVID vaccines, why can’t we do it with TB vaccines?
The first-ever UN High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on TB in 2018 gave high hopes of ending TB as the world leaders made commitments against set targets. The “Deadly Divide: TB Commitments vs. TB Realities” and the Global TB Report 2021 give a very bleak picture of missed targets. Based on the funding situation, it seems that world leaders have forgotten their 2018 promise at the UN HLM on TB to deliver a new TB vaccine as soon as possible. TB vaccines received just $118 million in research funding in 2020 – just $9 million more than 2018 levels. Multilateral funding for TB vaccine development is completely lacking. How can governments expect to find a new vaccine when $9 million dollars is all they can mobilize? The private sector situation is equally disappointing – their total investment in TB vaccines in 2020 was just $2 million dollars – less than half of what they spent in 2018.
With the chronic underfunding of TB R&D, it takes a miracle for a new TB vaccine to become available any time soon. Would the world rely on miracles while waiting for COVID vaccines? The COVID pandemic has shown that the world has the money; the question is, does it care about people who die from TB the same way it cares about people who die from COVID? On behalf of millions of people getting ill with TB and losing their lives every year, we call for governments, private sector and foundations to make sure the needed funding is made available and frontloaded for TB vaccine R&D. We hope our friends from the European Union, together with our friends from France, who are hosting us here for this important discussion, will also commit to champion this effort – to ensure an operational TB vaccine by 2025.
With a conducive regulatory environment and needed resources, researchers will be able to learn from, use and build on the COVID experience – including important advances in vaccine R&D.
The UN HLM on TB saw countries commit to an equitable and human rights-based TB response. Moreover, according to Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “All human beings are born … equal in dignity and rights.” But, are they really? As of today, COVID has killed about 5.9 million people; two years since the beginning of the pandemic, we have 10 COVID vaccines approved by the WHO and hundreds of candidates. TB kills 1.5 million people every year, and it has been plaguing humanity for thousands of years, yet there is only one century-old vaccine and 15 vaccine candidates. The world has to show that it cares about people who die from TB the same way it cares about people who die from COVID. We are all born equal in dignity and rights. Closing eyes on the TB epidemic, and the over 4,000 lives that are lost to TB every day, is a crime against humanity.
On 24 March, we commemorate World TB Day. The theme for 2022 is “Invest to End TB. Save Lives.” It is time to invest in a TB vaccine. Let’s save lives. Let’s commit to an operational TB vaccine by 2025.
In Solidarity, Community & Developing Country NGO Delegations to the Stop TB Partnership Board. 22nd February 2022
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