Vaccine Vigilance: The New Vaccines on the Horizon and What You Need to Know

May 20, 2024
Avatar for Jyoti KinghornJyoti Kinghorn
Vaccines on the horizon

Exciting new vaccines are in clinical trials in 2024. Some of these are prophylactic and others are therapeutic vaccines.

Prophylactic or preventative vaccines prevent us from catching an infection. The vaccine primes our immune system to recognize a pathogen and have the cellular defense machinery ready to go if the pathogen is ever encountered in the body. Upon exposure, the immune system rapidly attacks and neutralizes the pathogen so that an infection never sets in. Therefore, prophylactic vaccines are extremely effective at preventing infections. For example, the hepatitis A vaccine is 94-100% effective at preventing Hep A infection, and the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is 96%, 86%, and 89% effective at preventing measles, mumps, and rubella respectively.

Prophylactic vaccines can stop pandemics in their tracks. The smallpox vaccine, one of the earliest vaccines ever used was 99.999% effective against smallpox and eradicated the disease that was previously sweeping across villages in England. More recently, the COVID-19 vaccines helped communities around the world resume a normal way of life after the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. The recent HPV vaccine has an efficiency of 98% at preventing HPV infection, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US that can cause genital warts and cancer.

Therapeutic vaccines are different in that they help in treating a disease someone already has. These vaccines train the immune system to recognize some aberrant cells in the body, such as cancer cells, and kill them. This approach complements other therapies to get rid of a preexisting disease. Many vaccines going into clinical trials now are in this category

New vaccines on the horizon

Investigational RSV vaccine for people with chronic health conditions and organ transplants

RSV is a common respiratory infection that can have a severe impact on newborn children, older adults (over the age of 60), and other adults who have chronic health conditions.

Name. mRNA-1345-P303

Function. Preventing RSV infection in adults who have had organ transplants and those with chronic health conditions.

Target demographic. The new vaccine targets those who have had recent organ transplants, are immune-compromised or take immunosuppressive medications, and have chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, and coronary artery disease.

Stage of the trial. Phase 3

Manufacturer. Moderna

RSV vaccine for HIV-positive pregnant individuals

This vaccine was released in 2023 for pregnant women and older adults to protect them from RSV infection and hospitalization. The current clinical trial is testing the efficacy and safety of the vaccine in HIV-positive pregnant women.

Name. RSVpreF vaccine

Function. Preventing RSV infection in newborns by immunizing the HIV-positive mother during pregnancy.

Target demographic. Pregnant HIV-positive women.

Stage of the trial. Phase 3

Manufacturer. Pfizer.

Personalized vaccine for pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is pancreatic cancer that is lethal in 88% of patients who have it with a 5-year overall survival only 8-10%. The cancer is prone to coming back after surgical removal of tumors, and even after chemotherapy, 80% of patients see a recurrence within 14 months. The new personalized vaccine uses materials from a patient’s tumors to develop a patient-specific vaccine that helps their immune system recognize and destroy the cancer cells. The vaccine is administered as a part of the chemotherapy regimen. In the Phase I clinical trial, 8 participants responded to the vaccine while 7 did not. The manufacturers are currently recruiting participants with confirmed PDAC.

Name. Adjuvant Autogene Cevumeran (plus Atezolizumab and mFOLFIRINOX).

Function. Therapeutic function in improving the outcomes of patients with PDAC.

Target demographic. Patients with confirmed PDAC.

Stage of the trial. Phase 2, recruiting eligible participants.

Manufacturer. The vaccine is being developed by Genentech in collaboration with BioNTech SE.

Shingles vaccine

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster is caused by the varicella-zoster virus which also causes chickenpox. While most cases of shingles resolve in 3-5 weeks, some people especially older individuals can experience pain for a year or longer. The vaccine is intended to prevent infection from the varicella-zoster virus.

Name. mRNA-1468-P101

Function. Preventing shingles infection.

Target demographic. People over 50.

Stage of the trial. Phase 1/2.

Manufacturer. Moderna.

Genital herpes simplex vaccine

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). It causes lesions on the skin such as sores and blisters which are highly contagious on contact. The symptoms go away on their own and flare up again from time to time. The infection is incurable and once someone has it, they have it for life. The vaccine is intended to work like a suppressive antiviral therapy.

Name. mRNA-1608-P101

Function. Therapeutic function to suppress HSV-2.

Target demographic. Healthy adults (18 to 55 years of age) who have recurrent HSV-2 genital herpes.

Stage of the trial. Phase 1/2.

Manufacturer. Moderna.

Other vaccines

Trials are also underway to develop new vaccines for HIV (a sexually transmitted virus that causes AIDS) and norovirus ( a highly contagious stomach that causes diarrhea and vomiting).

Vaccine patches to move the needle on the distribution

Vaccines save lives, but their distribution is hindered by difficulties of temperature-sensitive transportation and storage. The need for refrigeration makes it hard to deliver vaccines to underserved communities, especially in underdeveloped countries. This problem may be solved by the upcoming technology of microarray patches that deliver vaccines through skin patches.

The patches will be the size of a coin and will attach like a Band-Aid. They will be covered with microneedles that can deliver the dry vaccine into the blood, or have a formula that dissolves and penetrates the skin upon contact. Microarray patches will not need refrigeration for storage so they can be transported to remote locations staying stable in harsh climates. According to UNICEF, better vaccine distribution can help children from “marginalized, vulnerable, fragile and conflict-affected communities” who lack access to immunization services get vaccinated.

The painless needle-free delivery method may also increase vaccine adoption both at home and abroad.

The information provided in our blog posts is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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