Austria to vaccinate over-50s against tuberculosis

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All Austrian adults over 50 will be vaccinated against tuberculosis under emergency legislation to be passed by parliament this week

Austria has announced the first nationwide obligation in Europe to vaccinate adults over 50 against tuberculosis (TB).

The government is requiring everyone over 50 to be vaccinated against the infectious and potentially fatal infection in an emergency measure that is part of a wider fight against the disease.

More than 230,000 people were living with TB in Austria last year, a decline from the high of 263,000 in 2015 but far short of the goal of zero cases.

The political programme of the ruling ÖVP – currently facing defeat in local elections and pressure from Angela Merkel’s CDU-CSU alliance for tougher measures – has long cited TB as a major challenge.

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“We are looking in danger of taking the task off our hands,” Interior Minister Herbert Kickl told reporters. “This has only been possible thanks to the special work of the medical and microbiological communities, experts, the police, doctors and nurses.”

Almost 70% of Austria’s 20,000 diagnosed cases of TB are drug-resistant, a state of affairs the government hopes to reverse with the introduction of a new vaccine next year.

With EU funding and a cabinet boost to help speed up inoculation, a nationwide network of health centres is being created to offer free shots.

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Data published by the Austrian Institute for Infection Prevention and Control showed that the number of cases in Austria hit a peak in 2010 and 2011. But after a slow decline since, the number rose by almost 15% last year.

Vienna-based pharmaceutical company Dotegy is working with public health authorities to produce the new vaccine for the Chinese market.

“We aim to have them on the market by summer of 2020. In 2020, everybody aged 50 or over will have to be vaccinated as well,” said Markus Munch, head of Dotegy Austria.

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