Numerous vaccines are in the pipeline for germs and viruses aside from the SARS-CoV-2, while some of the already existing vaccines are being improved upon, says WHO. Although the development of these vaccines represents scientific progress, if they are not applied, people will not benefit from them.
“Vaccines do not save lives, vaccinations do,” said Katherine O’Brien, Director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, WHO.
The pipeline of vaccines includes those against the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which causes lung diseases in children and infants. Annually, about 33 million children under five years of age get infected with RSV across the globe and approximately 120,000 of them die from complications associated with the disease. Currently, there is no approved vaccine for RSV but Pfizer is one of the pharmaceuticals committed to developing a vaccine against this virus. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of RSV monoclonal antibodies for the prevention of serious infection in the population at risk. In Mexico, this kind of immunization is cost-effective in infants born with less than 32 weeks of gestation.
Researchers are also developing an HIV vaccine. Globally, 1.5 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2020. In 2021, 14,274 new HIV cases were diagnosed in Mexico. In 2020, 680,000 people died from HIV related illnesses worldwide, 4,557 of them in Mexico. There are many scientific efforts to develop an HIV vaccine, including Mosaico. Mexico is one of the eight countries where the Mosaico HIV vaccine is being tested. Currently, the vaccine is in Phase 3 trials. Although results will be available in approximately four years, Mosaico hopes to be able to counter HIV contagion and the AIDS epidemic.
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a bacteria that also has no vaccine. In infants, it causes infections that can lead to sepsis or meningitis and death.
Scientists are also improving existing vaccines, such as the one for Tuberculosis. In 2019, Mexico reported 30,000 cases. In 2020, 79 percent of Tuberculosis cases were pulmonary. The north and south of the country are the regions where most cases are reported due to the high migratory flows, violence and drug use.
The influenza vaccine is also being improved and the second generation of COVID-19 vaccines is underway. Although there is sanitary urgency for all the upcoming vaccines, it is not expected that their development will be as fast as the first generation of the COVID-19 ones. The collaboration and funding around the world for the development of COVID-19 vaccines were unprecedented, said O’Brien.
“There was this one target that everybody was pursuing. For these other vaccines we would not expect that they would go nearly as quickly. However, I think that because of all the different ways that clinical development of vaccines happened during COVID-19, people are really learning the lessons and looking at the steps that can be shortened or run in parallel to bring these lifesaving vaccines to availability,” she added.