For many years, vaccines have been used to successfully prevent diseases such as
smallpox, measles, polio and other infectious diseases. A 2007 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that cases of vaccine-preventable diseases had reached an all-time low in the United States. The study found that hospitalizations and deaths from nine infectious diseases had declined by more than 90 percent and nearly 90 percent for another four diseases.
These findings illustrate the major contribution that vaccines have made in saving countless lives around the world. In the past several years, many successful new vaccines have been developed, including one against human papillomavirus (HPV) infections that can lead to cervical cancer, one to guard against preexposure to the anthrax virus, and a vaccine to prevent pneumococcal infections in high-risk populations.
But vaccines are not only for preventing infectious diseases. In 2010, a new cancer vaccine for the treatment of prostate cancer was approved in the United States, and many more are in development.
Today, biopharmaceutical research companies are developing 295 vaccines. Potential vaccines in development include:
• A recombinant vaccine against malaria.
• A vaccine that protects infants against meningococcal disease, a leading cause
• A genetically-modified vaccine designed for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Although many new promising vaccines are being researched today, the vaccine development process is not an easy one. As with the development of all drugs, vaccines must survive many years of thorough testing before they can be approved for use by the general public. Advances in other scientific fields, such as genomics, are becoming increasingly useful in the development of new vaccines. With the continued efforts of researchers, it is likely that we may have many more vaccines to protect against life-threatening diseases in the near future.