I once was accused of not being opposed to any vaccine on the market, but little did they know I have a wishlist for new vaccines that goes beyond all that. Believe it or not, there are pathogens out there that still have a deleterious effect on the health of mothers, children, and everyone.
I just wanted to spend a bit of time talking about some of the diseases where new vaccines could improve health outcomes in significant ways. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Respiratory syncytial virus
I’ve written about the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) previously. It is a common, contagious virus that causes infections of the respiratory tract. It is a single-stranded RNA virus, and its name is derived from the large cells known as syncytia that form when infected cells fuse.
It usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. But it can cause serious lung infections, especially in infants, older adults, and people with serious medical problems. For seniors, RSV infections are dangerous as immune systems weaken.
According to the CDC, each year in the United States, RSV leads to approximately—
- 2.1 million outpatient visits among children younger than 5 years old
- 58,000 hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old
- 177,000 hospitalizations among adults 65 years and older
- 14,000 deaths among adults 65 years and older
Right now, four companies are in various stages of development for an RSV vaccine — Moderna, Pfizer, GSK, and Nordic Bavarian.
GSK received approval from the FDA for its version of the RSV vaccine (called Arexvy) on 3 May 2023. This vaccine is indicated for adults over the age of 60. GSK is also testing the vaccine on babies and children for future approvals.
Pfizer recently received approval from the FDA for an RSV vaccine (called Abrysvo) also for adults over the age of 60. Like GSK, Pfizer is continuing testing of the vaccine for use in babies and children.
I have also written extensively about Lyme disease, a bacterial disease caused by a tick bite, and the new vaccine that is probably going to enter phase 3 clinical trials by the end of 2022. People who live in areas where Lyme disease is endemic have been hoping for new vaccines that can prevent this terrible disease.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is not a dangerous disease (between 50-80% of Americans have the virus) for most people. CMV is spread through close contact with body fluids.
Most people with CMV don’t get sick and don’t know that they’ve been infected. But infection with the virus can be serious in babies and people with weak immune systems. If a woman gets CMV when she is pregnant, she can pass it on to her baby. Usually, the babies do not have health problems. But some babies can develop lifelong disabilities.
Merck, Sanofi, and the City of Hope have vaccine candidates in early clinical trials. Moderna and GSK have vaccine candidates that are entering phase 1 clinical trials. Pfizer has a vaccine in preclinical development. We are probably several years away from a viable vaccine, but with so many in development, the chances that we’ll have one or more vaccines for this disease are exciting.
Universal flu vaccine
This is a flu vaccine that is effective against all influenza strains regardless of the virus subtype, antigenic drift, or antigenic shift. Hence it should not require a modified vaccine from year to year. The universal flu vaccine targets conservative antigens on the flu virus that don’t change frequently and are found on all flu viruses.
Several new vaccines are under development and in clinical trials. Biondvax has completed phase 3 clinical trials with a potential universal flu vaccine candidate. We should be hearing more about some new universal flu vaccine candidates in the next year or so.
Group B streptococcus
Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a well-known cause of newborn sepsis. GBS is commonly found in adults and older children and usually does not cause infection. But it can make newborn babies very sick. There are two ways in which GBS can be passed to a newborn baby:
- The baby can become infected while passing through the birth canal. In this case, babies become ill between birth and 6 days of life (most often in the first 24 hours). This is called early-onset GBS disease.
- The infant may also become infected after delivery by coming into contact with people who carry the GBS germ. In this case, symptoms appear later, when the baby is 7 days to 3 months or more old. This is called late-onset GBS disease.
In the USA, on average each year:
- About 930 babies get early-onset GBS.
- About 1,050 babies get late-onset GBS.
- About 4-6% of babies who develop GBS will die.
There are several vaccine candidates in various stages of development.
As far as I can tell, no vaccine is in phase 3 clinical trials, so it will be several years before this vaccine is available.
Summary of new vaccines
So, there are a lot of new vaccines that are in various stages of development, although all are in clinical trials. Over the next several years, we will be seeing these new vaccines that will help protect babies, children, and adults from diseases that still cause significant harm to humans.
And I am sure, as we have seen with the COVID-19 vaccine, that there will be people who proclaim that they are dangerous. Or not important. Or these diseases are so rare all you need is a magical vitamin to prevent them.
I guess I’ll have to admit that I stand behind every vaccine on the market because the science of vaccine safety and effectiveness is settled. And I will support any new vaccine that comes to the market that meets the scientific standards of safety and effectiveness.
- Beans C. Researchers getting closer to a “universal” flu vaccine. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Feb 1;119(5):e2123477119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2123477119. PMID: 35082157; PMCID: PMC8812533.
- Carreras-Abad C, Ramkhelawon L, Heath PT, Le Doare K. A Vaccine Against Group B Streptococcus: Recent Advances. Infect Drug Resist. 2020 Apr 29;13:1263-1272. doi: 10.2147/IDR.S203454. PMID: 32425562; PMCID: PMC7196769.
- Plotkin SA, Wang D, Oualim A, Diamond DJ, Kotton CN, Mossman S, Carfi A, Anderson D, Dormitzer PR. The Status of Vaccine Development Against the Human Cytomegalovirus. J Infect Dis. 2020 Mar 5;221(Suppl 1):S113-S122. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz447. PMID: 32134478; PMCID: PMC7057802.