Vaccines are a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases and are one of the most cost-effective health investments. This is especially true in low resource settings were treatment for diseases is difficult to access or is not available. Yet, globally, 1 in 5 children still do not receive routine life-saving immunizations, and an estimated 1.5 million children still die each year of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines that already exist.
Vaccines have ensured significant progress towards the global eradication of polio and vaccines against rotoavirus causing diarrhea, meningitis, pneumonia, and human papilloma virus (the cause of cervical cancer) are now available. New vaccines are being developed against AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, ebola, tropical diseases (e.g. West Nile, dengue), a universal flu vaccine, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and Alzheimers etc.
Many new vaccines will be made possible with the development of new type of vaccines (e.g. DNA vaccines. This type of vaccine injects the DNA needed to make a specific portion of the pathogen into the vaccine recipient. The potential immunity that can be gained will be long lasting and effective with few side effects as the vaccine will only use the necessary components of the virus or bacteria required to make a small amount of the antigen to stimulate an immune response).
Adjuvants are vaccine additives that stimulate the immune system. New adjuvantswill make current vaccines more effective and are key components for future vaccines. Adjuvant safety is being thoroughlyinvestigated. The right adjuvant has the possibility to enhance the interaction between the immune system cells and the vaccine antigen. There are over 20 adjuvants in clinical trials for vaccines against HIV, cancer and influenza.
While vaccines are very effective, injections can be painful. There are already needle-free vaccines that can be given as a nasal spray, taken orally or through vaccine patches. These patches could be self-administered, distributed to a large number of people quickly, and be pain free.
Pregnant women, infants, individuals with certain allergies, and the immunocompromised cannot receive some vaccines. Developing vaccines for vulnerable populations is an important goal for researchers, public health officials and regulatory authorities.
Historically, there has been 10-15 years average time lag for introducing newer vaccines into developing countries following their introduction in industrialized nations. In order to ensure global healthcare access, it is vital to accelerate the availability of affordable vaccines to the most vulnerable populations. There are product development partnerships, foundations and NGO working to ensure this. This includes the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (Gavi). A public-private partnership, Gavi was created to bring together key UN agencies, governments, the vaccine industry, private sector and civil society in order to improve childhood immunisation coverage in poor countries and to accelerate access to new vaccines.