The number dying of the infection rose for the first time in 10 years. In 2020, 1.5 million were killed by TB and 10 million infected.
Public health campaigners want funding of $1bn (£730m) every year into vaccine research. It has never exceeded more than $120m (£87m) in a year.
Earlier this month, the WHO warned that the pandemic had reversed progress against TB and fewer people were being diagnosed and treated as resources went to tackling Covid-19. Global funding for TB fell by £500m from 2019 to 2020.
Mike Frick, co-director of the TB project at Treatment Action Group, said: “Governments cumulatively spent $104bn on research and development of Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutics in the first 11 months of the pandemic. That is 75 times more than the money governments and other funders spent on TB vaccine research over the 11 years from 2005 to 2019. Despite high mortality rates, the only existing vaccine is the 100-year-old BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guérin) vaccine, which is less effective for adults and older teenagers.
“This disparity signals a clear abdication of responsibility on the part of governments to protect the human rights of people with TB to health and scientific progress. It is past time that we as a TB community start expecting – and demanding – more.”
Early diagnosis of TB is crucial because undetected cases increase the risk of the disease spreading. A person can be infected by inhaling a small number of bacteria that can take years to become active. The WHO estimates that around a quarter of the world’s population has latent TB.
Around the world, fewer infections were diagnosed and reported; a drop from 7.1m in 2019 to 5.8m in 2020. India made up 40% of this global drop in notifications, while numbers were down 14% in Indonesia and 12% in the Philippines. The number of people given preventive treatment fell by a fifth. WHO said it believes 4.1 million people newly infected with TB in 2020 have not been diagnosed, compared with 2.9 million the year before.