Would You Ever Recommend Driving a Motorbike Without a Helmet?

National Institute of Molecular Genetics and University of Siena School of Medicine, Italy


Vaccines prevent infections by mimicking them and eliciting memory of this event so that our bodies will eradicate the microorganisms once they show up, even decades after vaccination. The eradication and control of diseases such as smallpox are examples of the effectiveness of vaccination. Not only are vaccines effective, but they have proven to be a cost-effective method of disease management and should be further explored in the fight against infectious diseases. The advent and continued development of synthetic biology have contributed significant new avenues to vaccine development and production. These new paths will allow for the quicker, increased, and cheaper production of vaccines — which in turn allow for the wider use of vaccines, especially in resource-poor countries. Recent anti-vaccine movements have threatened the uptake of vaccines across the world, especially in developed countries, and have led many parents to refuse to vaccinate their children. This negative outcome has contributed to the resurgence of diseases that were previously conquered in these countries, such as measles and mumps. Vaccines are an important resource in the toolbox for the prevention of infectious diseases. However, by inadequately championing the development and use of vaccines, policy makers still do not fully take advantage of the disease-prevention opportunities that they provide. In this paper, we discuss two issues relating to vaccines: 1) the use of existing vaccines, and 2) research activities to discover new vaccines. We will expand first on why we do not vaccinate every single person in the world with the available vaccines, and second why we do not increase public and private investment in synthetic biology research aimed at vaccines against all infectious diseases that impact human and animal health.