Global health leaders discuss new approach to tuberculosis vaccine funding

March 24 2001 - Paris - European politicians, tuberculosis (TB) advocates and health advisers gathered today to discuss an innovative financing model that would enable scientific discoveries to be translated into TB vaccines.

Presenting their funding blueprint at a World TB Day meeting, Joris Vandeputte of TBVI said: "Our governments are faced with a difficult question: how to reduce the deficit while maintaining a commitment to invest 3% of gross national income in research and innovation?

"In our plan, European governments or agencies are asked to provide guarantees to take up money gradually from financial institutions, according to the progress of vaccine developments. Countries therefore do not have to provide any cash; the loan will be repaid through the profits of the final vaccines."

Speakers at the World TB Day event also warned against counter productive cuts to public health spending. A World Bank study on the economic impact of TB control estimated that the benefits of investing in scaled-up TB care and control outweigh the costs of treatment, on average, by 10 times.

Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Stop TB Partnership and one of the speakers at this meeting, stressed that Tuberculosis damages economies worldwide, destroys families an is keeping millions of people in poverty.

"We need to avoid making the same mistakes from the past when, during economic recession times, irrational and wholly uneconomic decisions were made to cut health spending. We need to remember that health is an investment," he said.

Clara de la Torra of the European Commission added: "Big health challenges such as Aids and Tuberculosis are not limited by geography. The Innovation Union will focus Europe's efforts on global challenges such as health and on co-operation with third countries.

Worldwide, tuberculosis (TB) kills 1.7 million people every year. The economic burden related to TB is estimated at 0.52% of the world’s gross national income. Cooperation, research and innovation are the key drivers to eliminating this devastating disease.

"With TBVI's financial plan, we can kill two birds with one stone: reduce the massive poverty caused by tuberculosis and strengthen the role of Europe in the world of innovation," said Onno Ruding, chair of TBVI’s governance board.

The meeting was organized by TuBerculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI), Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Fondacion Mérieux, Friends of the Global Fund Europe and the Stop TB Partnership.