Accelerating Action To End Tuberculosis in Eastern Europe and Central Asia More Urgent Than Ever
Statement from José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, on World TB Day 2022
March 24, 2022 (New York) – The COVID-19 pandemic has, in just two years, catastrophically set back global progress against TB by a decade. TB and COVID-19 are now the world’s leading infectious disease killers: Each day, more than 4,100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
The conflict in Ukraine has the potential to be catastrophic to TB control efforts as well. In Ukraine, 30,000 people fall ill with TB each year. COVID-19 halved TB case detection in the country in 2020, and the ongoing war could bring diagnosis and treatment to its knees. The growth of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) remains an urgent threat. Eastern Europe and Central Asia region accounts for eight of the world`s high burden MDR-TB countries, including Ukraine. The spillover of the conflict across borders in the region is likely to have a major impact on the ability of Ukraine and its neighbors to provide even the basics in TB care.
If we are to end TB, we need a better TB vaccine – the current one is nearly 100 years old and only has limited effectiveness. In Eastern Europe especially, we need more tolerable and effective MDR-TB treatments, of the kind Vital Strategies is working on in collaboration with partners. COVID-19 showed us what’s possible in such a short time for vaccine development with rapid mobilization of resources and global scientific collaboration. TB vaccine research needs that same urgency.
COVID-19 has shown the devastating results of the world’s failure to invest in health, and the war in Ukraine is reminding us, once again, the terrible impact that conflict has on essential health services.
We must regain momentum lost due to COVID-19 by prioritizing health systems globally and investing in prevention, detection and treatment. We have the tools to tackle TB and other killers. We need the political will and funding to put them into action.
About José Luis Castro
José Luis Castro is the President and CEO of Vital Strategies, where he has led a rapid expansion of Vital Strategies’ portfolio, working with governments to tackle the world’s leading killers, primarily in low-and middle-income countries. The organization now reaches into 73 countries and has touched the lives of more than 2 billion people. Castro is also the former Executive Director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).
Read Castro’s most recent letter, “A Future for Public Health, Reimagined.”
About Vital Strategies
Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. We work with governments and civil society in 73 countries to design and implement evidence-based strategies that tackle their most pressing public health problems. Our goal is to see governments adopt promising interventions at scale as rapidly as possible.
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