Vaccines represent some of the most impactful advances in public health, helping to prevent the spread of many infectious diseases and, in many parts of the world, eliminating some of the most devastating conditions.
There are several notable success stories in prevention of infectious diseases in the U.S. and worldwide. Smallpox at one point was one of the deadliest diseases in existence. But as a result of American immunization efforts, the last natural outbreak occurred in 1949. And across the globe due to aggressive vaccination programs naturally-occurring smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. Though many diseases remain threats around the world, vaccination requirements in the U.S. have led to the elimination of once highly contagious infections impacting children, including polio in 1994, measles in 2000 and rubella in 2004.
In the United States today, 16 diseases are now preventable as a result of childhood vaccines, and routine immunization of U.S. children born between 1994-2018 has prevented more than 419 million illnesses.
Today, biopharmaceutical companies are working with stakeholders across the research and development (R&D) ecosystem to develop new ways of preventing and treating illnesses with innovative vaccines. According to a new report, there are currently 258 vaccines in development for the treatment or prevention of disease.
Among the vaccines in development are:
- 108 vaccines for cancer, including a therapeutic vaccine for non-small cell lung cancer, which uses messenger RNA to mobilize the patient’s own immune system to fight the tumor(s)
- 125 vaccines for infectious diseases, including a vaccine designed to prevent HIV infection by teaching a patient’s immune system to recognize and effectively fight the virus
- 14 vaccines for allergies, including vaccines that target peanut allergies
- 2 vaccines for Alzheimer’s disease, including one therapeutic vaccine that targets amyloid beta protein, which is linked to the development of the neurological disorder
Additionally, numerous different types of potential vaccines are in development that target COVID-19. Researchers are working around the clock amidst the global pandemic to develop safe, effective and affordable vaccines that will prevent both individual infection and the continued spread of the virus. As of April 15, 2020:
- There are more than 70 vaccines for COVID-19 in the global research pipeline.
- And six vaccines for COVID-19 have entered human clinical trials with many planning to begin human trials this year.
The rapid pace at which researchers have been able to advance COVID-19 vaccine candidates is a testament to the lessons learned from past vaccine R&D and strong partnerships across sectors. As biopharmaceutical companies seek to identify and develop potential vaccines against COVID-19, companies are already scaling up manufacturing capabilities at risk and sharing technology platforms throughout the health care ecosystem.
Building on the tremendous success of vaccines thus far, there is significant hope for a future further transformed by innovative vaccines.