The past 20 months has seen an explosion of vaccine development, with COVID vaccine testing and rollout happening at an unprecedented pace in the face of a global pandemic. There have been absolute triumphs – the fact we have multiple safe, effective vaccines is remarkable – but there have also been challenges.

We’ve seen storage and delivery issues, vaccine hesitancy, breakthrough infections and the beginnings of waning immunity.

Vaccine innovators around the world have these challenges in their sights. They are already working on the next generation of COVID vaccines.

Read more: COVID vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds are inching closer. Here’s what we know so far

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Tweaking current vaccines

After hundreds of millions of doses, we have a good handle on how current vaccines are performing and where they can be improved. As more data is gathered, a modified dose, time between doses, and/or using different vaccines together in mix-and-match strategies may become the preferred approach.

We could also improve vaccines that aren’t performing at their best.

Inactivated vaccines have been used in many parts of the world but their early protection has waned, particularly in older people, with the World Health Organisation now recommending a third dose.

One way to improve this could be to add an adjuvant – something that fires up the immune system. One such vaccine, called Valneva, has early results that suggest including an adjuvant improves immunity.

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Written by Kylie Quinn, Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow, School of Health and Biomedical Sciences, RMIT University.

Article published by The Conversation on the 9th November 2021.