Researchers' hope of 20 new vaccines in next decade

By Jane Dreaper
Health correspondent, BBC News

image captionResearchers hope to develop 20 new vaccines in 10 years.

Researchers writing in The Lancet say there is the potential to develop 20 new or improved vaccines in the next decade.

A group of scientists says funding is crucial - but so is trust and confidence in vaccines.

They identify AIDS and malaria vaccines as the most important areas for research.

But the authors say neglected tropical diseases, such as leprosy, should also be investigated.

And in a "call to action", the scientists say: "We must also consider vaccines beyond classic infections, such as insulin-dependent diabetes, cancers and degenerative diseases.

'Fragile' confidence

"We need to find the requisite funds for the research and development of about 20 improved or novel vaccines in the next decade or beyond.

"This call to action comes at a crucial time. In some communities, recent declines in vaccine uptake provide a stark reminder that public confidence and trust in immunisation is fragile and requires attention."

Professor Richard Moxon, from Oxford University, came up with the idea for the series of papers looking at the future of vaccine research.

He said: "Considering the unambiguous and beneficial track record of immunisation, it is perhaps surprising that the public aren't always comfortable with it.

"It's complex. Perhaps one of the things that's most important is that vaccines are given to healthy people - often children.

Safety issues

"Safety issues loom very large because there's very little awareness of many of the diseases that have been prevented by vaccines, such as polio and whooping cough."

Professor Moxon said he believed an AIDS vaccine was still many years away, but there might be an effective malaria vaccine within five years.

He and his fellow authors are calling on developing countries to shoulder more of the responsibility for financing vaccination programmes.

They said: "Most developing countries accord too low a priority to health in their budgets.

"They must be persuaded to take more of the burden themselves on behalf of their poorer citizens."

Funding for vaccines in developing countries will be examined at a crucial meeting in London on Monday, when an effort is made to raise more than £2m for immunisation programmes over the next four years.

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