Development of new vaccines

Vaccine development proceeds through discovery, process engineering, toxicology and animal studies to human phase I, II and III trials. The process can take more than 10 years, depending on the disease. The human trials:

  1. focus initially on safety, involving small groups of people;
  2. progress to moderate-sized "target" populations (people close to the age and other characteristics for whom the vaccine is intended) to determine both safety and the stimulation of immune response; and
  3. progress to large target populations to establish whether a vaccine actually prevents a disease as intended (efficacy).

The WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) was established in 2001 to streamline the various vaccine research and development projects being carried out by WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). IVR works to facilitate the development of vaccines against infectious diseases of major public health importance, improve existing immunization technologies and ensure that these advances are made available to the people who need them the most. IVR achieves these objectives using a three-pronged approach:

  • managing knowledge and providing guidance and advocacy through effective partnerships to accelerate innovation for new and improved vaccines and technologies;
  • supporting research and product development for WHO's priority new vaccines and technologies; and
  • conducting implementation research and developing tools to support evidence-based recommendations, policies and strategies for optimal use of vaccines and technologies.