The Future of Vaccination

What Is the Current State of Vaccines?  

Measles, polio, rabies, and smallpox are just some of the diseases that are all but gone in the United States because of vaccines. Vaccines for more than 25 diseases are currently available.

According to a survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following percentages of children are vaccinated against the following diseases.

  • MMR: 91.9 percent
  • DTP/DTap: 94.1 percent
  • Polio: 92.7 percent
  • Varicella: 91.2 percent

A 2007 CDC survey of adult vaccination coverage found that:

  • 57.2 percent of those ages 18 to 49 had received the tetanus vaccination in the past 10 years
  • 65.6 percent of adults ages 65 and over had received the pneumococcal vaccine
  • 23.4 percent of adults ages 18 to 49 had received three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine

Vaccination creates a healthier environment for all. Doctors call this idea community or herd immunity. When many people are immunized, those who aren’t have some degree of protection.

What’s Ahead: Vaccinomics

Today’s pediatricians follow a vaccine schedule for vaccinating children. Scientists are working toward a more personalized vaccine prescription. This discipline is known as vaccinomics. The word is a combination of vaccination and genomics.

Vaccinomics identifies a person’s genes and predicts how well vaccines will work. According to Scientific American, Researchers have already found that men make fewer antibodies after vaccination than women. 

Vaccines expose a person to weaker or killed viruses. These viruses are foes that the immune system can easily fight. After vaccination, a person’s body builds immune system cells to recognize the virus again and fight it.

People’s immune systems have different responses to vaccines. Using vaccinomics, a doctor could give more of a vaccine solution or less depending upon a patient’s response.

Vaccinomic researchers are also looking into how to cut back on vaccine reactions. Fear of reactions keeps some people from getting vaccinated. Genetic information could determine who shouldn’t get certain vaccines to prevent reactions.

Because there are many genes involved in generating an immune system response, researchers are still working to map most or all.

New Vaccine Deliveries

Most vaccines are available in shot form. These shots are a source of anxiety for children and adults alike. The flu vaccine is also available as an inhalable mist.

The newest possible vaccine delivery method is the edible vaccine. They could be a low-cost delivery method that stops potentially widespread diseases by simply eating a banana or tomato. Soon, a doctor could say “Eat your medicine.”

Scientists are currently researching edible vaccines for diseases such as measles, cholera, and hepatitis B and C. Imagine eating a soybean that prevents herpes or chewing on tobacco leaves to prevent tooth decay. These are just a few studies happening around the world.

Edible vaccine research goes for livestock too. Animals could also eat edible vaccines to protect against diseases.

Examples of eligible foods for vaccines are:

  • corn
  • lettuce
  • potatoes
  • rice
  • soybeans
  • wheat

Each food must have a high protein level for the vaccine’s delivery. Another criteria is that the foods must be able to grow in different climates. While third-world countries may not be able to ship syringes and refrigerated medical supplies, they could grow plants that protect against diseases.

Another research innovation is in needle-free devices. High-pressure jets exposed to the skin would ensure absorption. The vaccines of the future could also be microneedles. These small, patch-like devices are no larger than a fingertip. When pressed to the skin, the small needles could deliver a vaccine.

New Vaccine Research

According to a report from Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), American researchers are developing more than 271 vaccines right now. This includes research for cancer vaccines. Some vaccines also aim to treat diseases. These vaccines could provide antibodies to help a person fight disease.

Although wiping out more diseases is a goal for America’s top minds, the FDA requires an extensive safety and testing review before approval.

A 2011 study published in the journal Vaccine predicted when certain vaccine types might hit the market. While these predictions are only estimations, vaccines predicted for approval in the next 10 to 20 years include malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Vaccines predicted for approval in the next 20 to 50 years include insulin-dependent diabetes, celiac disease, and possibly cancer. Some cancer vaccine research is focused on keeping cancer from spreading.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, researchers are also studying vaccines for chikungunya virus, West Nile virus, group B streptococcus, and cytolomegavirus (CMV). 

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