New Vaccines

Immunizations in the News and in Development

Researchers working on a new flu vaccine.
A universal flu vaccine is one of the new vaccines in the pipeline. Photo by Erel Photography/Getty Images

Vaccines have come a long way since the first smallpox vaccine was used in 1798.

From that one vaccine that had a lot of side effects and only provided partial protection, we are now safely protected against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases, including polio, measles, tetanus, etc.

New Vaccines

The newest vaccines to be developed include:

  • Prevnar 13 - a newer version of Prevnar, providing coverage against 13 strains of the pneumococcal bacteria, was approved and replaces the older version (Prevnar 7) in 2010.
  • MenHibrix - a combination vaccine that protects against both Haemophilus influenzae type b and Neisseria meningitidis serogroups C and Y. It was approved by the FDA in 2013, but  is only recommended for infants at high risk for meningococcal disease.
  • Trumenba and Bexsero - two vaccines to protect children and young adults against Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B. They are currently also recommended for high risk children.
  • Gardasil 9 - was approved by the FDA (December 2014) to provide protection against five additional types of HPV.

What about all of the reports from anti-vaccine folks that 300 vaccines are in the pipeline and will soon to be added to the immunization schedule?

New Vaccine Trends

There actually haven't been a lot of vaccines in the news lately.

Lack of vaccine news is not to say that new vaccines haven't been in development or that they aren't being routinely given every day, but rather that they don't seem to capture people's attention.

Unlike the vaccine for polio, which was totally new, some new vaccines that have been approved in recent years are either newer versions of older vaccines (like Menactra, which provided better protection and replaced the older Menomune meningococcal vaccine) or simply a different type of the same vaccine (Menactra vs Menveo, which are both newer meningococcal vaccines from different vaccine manufacturers).

Another trend in new vaccines is developing combination vaccines, which group multiple vaccines into a single shot. This isn't necessarily a new technology, as the MMR vaccine is a combination vaccine that's been around since 1971. It provides protection against measles, mumps, and rubella in one shot, instead of the three shots kids previously had to get. Even before the MMR vaccine, we had the DTP vaccine, which was combined in 1948.

Some newer combination vaccines include:

  • Pediarix - a 5 in 1 vaccine that combines DTaP, IPV, and the hepatitis B vaccine (2004)
  • ProQuad - a 4 in 1 vaccine that combines MMR and Varivax (2006)
  • Pentacel - a 5 in 1 vaccine that combines DTaP, IPV, and Hib (2008)
  • Kinrix - a 4 in 1 vaccine that combines DTaP and IPV (2008)

A hexavalent, or 6 in 1 vaccine is available in Europe and many other countries, but has not yet been approved for use in the United States. The FDA still has some concerns about how well it protects against Hib bacteria.

The other new trend in vaccines is the development of oral and nasal vaccines, such as RotaTeq and Rotarix (rotavirus vaccines) and Flumist (an influenza vaccine).

New Flu Vaccines

It's perhaps not surprising that we often hear about new flu vaccines; after all, they need to make a new flu vaccine almost every year.

Lately though, in addition to the same old flu shot that simply protects against new strains of influenza, we have actually been seeing totally new flu vaccines, including:

  • Fluzone High-Dose - contains 4 times more hemagglutinin than standard dose flu shots (2013).
  • Fluzone Intradermal - contains less hemagglutinin than standard dose flu shots (2013).
  • Fluarix Quadrivalent - protects against four strains of flu vs the three strains that a typical trivalent flu shot would protect you against (2013).
  • FluBlok - a recombinant flu vaccine that is not made using chicken eggs or the flu virus, instead being made in insect cells (2013).
  • Flumist Quadrivalent - like Fluarix Quadrivalent, protects against four strains of flu, but is available as a nasal spray instead of a shot (2013).
  • Flucelvax - a new flu shot that is made in cultured animal cells, instead of chicken eggs (2013).

All of these new flu vaccines are available for this year's 2013 to 2014 flu season, although only the new Fluarix Quadrivalent and Flumist Quadrivalent are approved for kids. In fact, Flumist Quadrivalent will likely replace the older trivalent form of Flumist this year.

Of course, the new flu vaccine that we are all waiting for is a universal flu vaccine that provides protection against all flu strains.

Vaccines in Development

While we hear about vaccines in development — including failed vaccine trials — all of the time, there are many vaccines in development that may some day be saving lives and preventing disease, including vaccines for:

  • Ebola
  • Neisseria meningitidis serogroup B combined with other common serogroups in one vaccine
  • Dengue
  • Clostridium difficile infections
  • Group A streptococcus (strep throat)
  • Salmonella typhi
  • Malaria
  • RSV
  • Chagas Disease
  • Enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC)
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Lyme disease
  • Shigella
  • Ricin
  • CMV
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • Foot-And-Mouth Disease
  • H. pylori
  • Neglected tropical diseases

Unfortunately, being in development can mean that a vaccine is anywhere from an early exploratory or pre-clinical stage to Phase IV trials after being approved and licensed by the FDA.

Some of these vaccines will hopefully be available in the near future, likely in the next 10 years — especially those that can protect us against Group A streptococcus and Salmonella typhi.

Others might be available in the more medium-term future, in about 10-20 years, including vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis.

Future of Vaccines

In addition to developing new vaccines, another important thing that can be done to save millions of lives is to simply make current vaccines more accessible to more people around the world. Over 1.5 million young children continue to die each year from diseases that can already be prevented by routine vaccination.

As part of the Decade of Vaccines Collaboration and their Global Vaccine Action Plan, the World Health Organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations, and the GAVI Alliance, etc., are working towards universal access to immunization and "to produce innovation in the discovery and development of new and improved vaccines and immunization strategies for high priority disease targets."

Out of the research from these new and improved vaccines and immunization strategies, we may one day see:

  • plant derived vaccines
  • personalized vaccines
  • DNA vaccines
  • anti-cancer vaccines
  • vaccines to treat autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease and insulin-dependent diabetes
  • therapeutic vaccines to treat allergic rhinitis, nicotine addiction, and pediatric tumors, etc.

It is interesting that the first priority of the Global Vaccine Action Plan is that "All countries commit to immunization as a priority." Hopefully, as more vaccines become approved and licensed, we will see that priority and commitment, higher vaccination rates, and the elimination of more vaccine-preventable diseases.


Immunization Action Coalition. Vaccine-Related Journal Articles. Topics of Interest: Potential new vaccines. Accessed April 2013.

Keith, Jacqueline A. Delivering the promise of the Decade of Vaccines: Opportunities and challenges in the development of high quality new vaccines. Vaccine. Volume 31, Supplement 2, 18 April 2013, Pages B184–B193

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Fifteenth Annual Conference on Vaccine Research (2012).

Nossal, G.J.V. Vaccines of the future. Vaccine. Volume 29, Supplement 4, 30 December 2011, Pages D111–D115.

Skibinski, David AG. Combination Vaccines. J Glob Infect Dis. 2011 Jan-Mar; 3(1): 63–72.

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