Vaccine research and development priorities

Canada has identified a set of priorities for research and development of new and improved human and animal vaccines. Learn about these priorities and how they are used to ensure the health of Canadians.

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Stages of vaccine research and development priorities

The priorities created for vaccine preventable diseases for both human and animal health follow a 3 stage process.

First stage

The first stage identified pathogens and diseases of greatest concern to public health. They were evaluated against a range of criteria, including:

  • risks for human and animal health
  • burden of disease
  • antimicrobial resistance
  • impacts on immune-compromised individuals

An initial set of candidate priorities was reviewed by expert groups, including the:

  • Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health
  • Council of Chief Veterinary Officers
  • Vaccine Industry Committee
  • federal departments and agencies with an interest in vaccines, science and technology development

Based on this input, a more specific list of priority pathogens and diseases was created for further review.

Second stage

The second stage defined relevant themes on which to focus vaccine research and development for priority pathogens and diseases. Canada's research community and vaccine industry consider these themes when creating their specific innovation strategies and work plans. This is in response to emerging needs and opportunities.

There are 4 areas of focus, identified below.

  1. Microbial threats to the Canadian health system and the health security of Canadians.
  2. Protecting children and vulnerable populations.
    • Research in this area could include the protection of vulnerable groups against serious diseases such as tuberculosis.
    • It could also include more serious childhood infections such as pertussis, also known as “whooping cough.” The effectiveness of the pertussis vaccine could be improved by new technologies.
  3. Threats to the productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sectors.
    • Research could help control or eliminate animal diseases, especially those threatening the economic stability and viability of Canada’s agricultural sector.
  4. Supporting technologies that improve vaccine effectiveness and availability.
    • This could include research into different production techniques that will allow vaccines to be delivered to Canadians much faster. An example is changing from egg-based vaccines to plant-based ones.
    • It could include the use of adjuvants to improve immune response.
    • It could also include the development of better biomarkers for safety and immune response.

Third stage

The third stage classified the pathogens and diseases into:

  • short-term
    • vaccine likely available within 6 years
  • medium-term
    • vaccine likely available within 7 to 12 years
  • long-term
    • vaccine likely available within 13 or more years

Classification was based on the current state of scientific knowledge and research, and development investments. This will allow researchers to focus their activities and efforts on areas such as:

  • vaccine safety research
  • administration and regulation (short-term)
  • readiness for clinical trials (medium-term)
  • pure and applied research (long-term) 

Rated vaccines included those that provide protection against diseases that currently have no vaccine. Also included are diseases that currently have a vaccine but a more effective vaccine is sought after. An improved vaccine could provide broader or longer term protection or require fewer doses for optimal protection.

Vaccines could have been given a lower priority because of:

  • the availability of existing vaccines in Canada that meet desired disease prevention goals
  • the relative amount of the disease in Canada compared with other diseases

It is important to note that this list is evergreen. Further changes may be based on need and opportunities to prevent or reduce the burden of diseases in Canada.

Human health vaccine priorities

The criteria used to assess the human pathogens and diseases include:

  • incidence and treatability
  • mortality and case fatality
  • communicability
  • clinical impact
  • public and political profile
  • ten-year projection of incidence
  • economic impact and preventability

Other criteria could affect antimicrobial resistance and protection of vulnerable populations.

Current vaccine priorities are included in the chart below.

Human pathogen or vaccine
Short-term development (within 6 years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Influenza Highest
Respiratory syncytial virus
Clostridium difficile
Group A streptococcus
Streptococcus pneumoniae
Norovirus Medium
Haemophilus influenzae non type b
Herpes zoster
Meningococcal serogroup B
Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease)
Human papillomavirus Lowest
Group B streptococcus
Rabies virus
Dengue virus
West Nile virus
Medium-term development (7 to 12 years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Hepatitis C Highest
Bordetella pertussis (whooping cough)
Chlamydia trachomatis
Staphylococcus aureus
Herpes simplex type 2 Medium
Helicobacter pylori
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Parvovirus B19 Lowest
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Long-term development (13 or more years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) Highest
Universal influenza
Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB)
Neisseria gonorrhoeae
Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus Lowest

Animal vaccine priorities

The criteria used to assess the animal pathogens and diseases include:

  • threat to stock
  • impacts on markets and trade
  • cost or difficulty to vaccinate (with current vaccines and technologies)
  • return on investment (from vaccination)
  • risks to humans
  • contribution to international aid goals
Animal pathogen or vaccine
Short-term development (within 6 years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Porcine epidemic diarrhea Highest
Medium-term development (7 to 12 years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Chronic wasting disease Highest
Porcine influenza A
Staphylococcus aureus - dairy cattle
Bovine respiratory disease
Eschericia coli - dairy cattle Medium
Long-term development (13 or more years)
Pathogens or diseases Ranking
Universal influenza Highest
Mycobacterium paratuberculosis
Coccidiosis Medium
Bovine coronavirus Lowest

The vaccine research, innovation and development process is complex in Canada. It involves the work of the following federal institutions:

  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Health Canada
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • Industry Canada
  • National Research Council
  • Natural Science and Engineering Research Council
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
  • International Development Research Centre
  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
  • Defence Research and Development Canada

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