Vaccines represent some of the most important public health advances, helping to prevent the spread of many infectious diseases and, in many parts of the world, eliminating some of the most devastating conditions.
The human immune system is incredibly powerful and versatile, working continuously to keep a variety of invaders from causing infection and disease. And although the immune system is incredibly robust, it is not invincible which is why vaccines are needed to help support the body’s defenses. From bacteria, to viruses, to parasites, the immune system recognizes invading threats and triggers a response in the body to contain and combat invaders.
Researching and developing vaccines is incredibly challenging and complex, given unique scientific, clinical and logistical challenges. There is significant hope for the future though, as the scientific and public health communities come together to overcome research hurdles and drive innovation for patients around the world.
As of October 2017, there are more than 260 vaccines in development by America’s biopharmaceutical companies to both prevent and treat diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and several autoimmune disorders. A robust pipeline containing new vaccine technology has the potential to prevent the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), protect against malaria, and treat pancreatic cancer.
Vaccines undergo a rigorous research and development process in order to ensure safety and efficacy, and continue to be monitored long after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Manufacturers and health authorities coordinate to ensure strict manufacturing and delivery schemes, in order to guarantee the quality and purity of vaccines. Data show that the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history, due in part to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) long-standing vaccine safety program, which closely and constantly monitors the safety of vaccines. One important element of the program, the Immunization Safety Office, monitors possible vaccine side effects and works with public health stakeholders to assess possible connections to vaccines. For example, while some have had concerns that autism spectrum disorder might be linked to the vaccines children receive, studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing autism spectrum disorder.
For more information about vaccines and vaccine safety, visit www.cdc.gov.