A collection of quick and simple resources on how Covid-19 vaccines work, how we know they're safe, and how they can be distributed to everyone around the world.
Vaccines: a world equipped to combat infectious disease
Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective healthcare interventions in human history. They save countless lives every year.
For the world to be better prepared to combat infectious diseases, we urgently need new and improved vaccines. And we need to make sure that the people who need them can use them.
What we want to achieve
Through this key area of work, we want to:
- support the development of new and improved vaccines
The world has effective vaccines for less than 30 diseases. There are many life-threatening diseases that we don’t have vaccines for. And some of the vaccines we do have are not as effective as they should be. The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has shown how devastating infectious disease can be for our health, the economy and society as a whole. Being able to quickly develop effective vaccines is our best chance of limiting the damage done by novel infectious threats.
- enable better and broader use of the vaccines that already exist
People who are most in need of vaccines can’t always get them. This is particularly true in low-income countries, where resources are scarce – ensuring they are used effectively can be a challenge. Policy makers may lack the evidence to decide which vaccines would be most useful, and there may also be limited expertise in how to deploy them.
What we’re doing
We’re working across several areas to achieve our goals.
Using vaccines to their full potential to reduce the damage of epidemics
Vaccines are a vital tool for fighting epidemics, but developing a vaccine from scratch typically takes more than 10 years. We’re working to support the development of vaccines against known diseases, and of new technology to accelerate vaccine development when new threats appear.
- funding CEPI – the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations – to help fill critical gaps within vaccine funding and R&D. CEPI is currently supporting nine new vaccine candidates for Covid-19
- running a Joint Initiative on Research in Epidemic Preparedness and Response with the UK Department for International Development to fund research around the world, facilitate collaboration and influence policy change. This includes funding a number of Covid-19 research projects to support countries with the weakest health systems.
- working with global stakeholders to accelerate progress towards a universal vaccine for influenza
- funding research that can inform policy decisions on epidemics, such as generating the evidence base for reducing the dose of Yellow Fever vaccine
- supporting the World Health Organization to create R&D blueprints for tackling Lassa fever, Nipah and Ebola.
Using human infection studies to create tailored vaccines for low-resource areas
Vaccines work best when they are developed specifically for the populations most at risk. An effective way to do this is through human infection studies, which involve testing the vaccines on volunteers from relevant communities.
- funding clinical sites to set up human infection studies in low-resource areas
- helping to build local research capacity and strengthen ethical and regulatory frameworks in those areas.
Promoting and using vaccines to tackle drug-resistant infections
Vaccines can help prevent infections which are resistant to antibiotics, and diseases which can lead to unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. But they’re not used enough as a tool to tackle drug-resistant infections.
For this, we:
- are creating evidence and tools to support researchers, funders and industry in allocating resources to prevent drug resistance through vaccines
- have published a report that provides an independent assessment of the potential of vaccines to help with a range of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Creating a stronger, more effective link between vaccine research and practice
For advances in vaccine science to benefit more people, more quickly, implementation and evidence need to be more closely linked.
One example where this link could be stronger is between cholera control and research. Cholera, often thought of as a disease of history, still causes an estimated 2.9 million cases and 95,000 deaths every year.
- working with the Global Task Force for Cholera Control to coordinate research and funding to make sure that cholera control measures can be better implemented using the best evidence
- funding more work to connect research with on-the-ground programmes, using our approach to cholera as a proof of principle for other diseases.
Supporting countries to make their own decisions on vaccine uptake and use
Countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries with high burdens of infectious disease, need to be able to develop independent policies on immunisation that are based on research evidence, local disease burden and cost-effectiveness. To do this, they need access to relevant evidence, clear decision-making pathways, and technical skills and expertise.
We’re working to identify, fund, share and apply relevant research so that decisions can be based on better information. This includes:
- working with other stakeholders like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
- supporting the development of global training resources for national immunisation technical advisory groups.
Promoting a supportive political and policy environment that enables vaccine development and use
Vaccines already save millions of lives, but they could be saving many millions more. This can only happen with the support of global policy makers.
- working to build positive understanding of the current and future potential vaccines offer
- advocating for the right global policies to support these objectives – policies which are both responsive to country level needs and galvanise progress.
Covid-19 vaccine explainers
- Effective ways to increase vaccination rates: What the evidence tells us
This briefing aims to support global policy makers and others involved in immunisation to prioritise the most effective activities to increase vaccination rates and save lives.
- How partnerships across sectors can reinvigorate the vaccine pipeline
A report looking at how public-private partnerships can help address the problems around vaccine development and production.
- Impact of vaccination on antibiotic usage
A systematic review of the evidence base on the effect of vaccines on antibiotic use.
- The role of National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups in evidence-informed decision-making
Findings from a scoping project by Wellcome and the World Health Organization to determine how to support national expert groups on immunisation.
- Ethical challenges posed by human infection studies in endemic settings
A review of the ethical concerns about research involving vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries.
- Exploring terminology and naming for controlled human infection models [PDF 415KB]
A Wellcome report about terminology and naming in the field of human infection studies.
- Vaccines for antimicrobial resistance
A report by Wellcome and The Boston Consulting Group looking at the opportunities and challenges around developing vaccines to combat antimicrobial resistance.
- Money and microbes: strengthening research capacity to prevent epidemics
A report by The World Bank which sets out how to develop the political support, financing and coordination required to build clinical research capacity in low- and middle-income countries.