Vaccines are one of our most effective medicines for controlling infectious diseases, notable successes including the eradication of smallpox and the dramatic reduction in the incidences of childhood preventable diseases such as Measles and Polio where outbreaks have become comparatively rarer. However, many challenges remain and vaccines are not available for many diseases such as ebola and malaria.
In Low and Middle Income Countries the challenge is to get effective vaccine coverage using the very best vaccines. Organisations such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) have been formed to facilitate better vaccine delivery through improved economic models and direct advocacy. There is a need to develop vaccines against neglected diseases and to simply get better and consistent vaccine coverage. Lack of vaccine coverage may be further exacerbated by the fact that many Low and Middle Income Countries do not have their own vaccine manufacturing capability and rely on vaccines designed and mass produced in facilities far removed from the point of end use.
In medium to high income countries, many of the challenges of vaccine uptake relate to concerns of the side effects and significant anti-vaccine lobbies have emerged. Additionally, with an aging population that includes immunocompromised cohorts the epidemiology of infections are changing to include many healthcare-associated diseases including Staphylococci and Clostridium difficile. Here specific vaccines are required to target these hyper-susceptible groups.
Fortunately we are in an era where new technologies are revolutionising our abilities to develop improved vaccines. The genomic sciences have facilitated the exploitation of reverse vaccinology to identify new vaccine antigens. Structural biology is improving our understanding of how the immune system recognises antigens and new adjuvants are being invented. Many groups at the University research areas related to vaccine applicable technologies. A snapshot of some of the research at the Centre for Global Health research is highlighted here.