Vaccines for two strains of bird flu, H5N1 and H7N9, are in development and are expected to be available soon. These strains can be transported from birds, usually chickens, to humans.
These vaccines are being developed at Kansas State University, where an advanced vaccine development method is used. This methods allows for fast development of vaccines that could be developed in time to reduce the number of cases and intensity of outbreaks. It would also allow for faster development of other types of pathogens such as those from other livestock.
H5N1 is currently more threading than H7N9. It is active in some Southeast Asian and North African countries. There are also a few cases of it in the US.
Currently there are about 700 cases worldwide and the virus has a mortality rate of 60%, which is high. Because of this, it is very important that a vaccine is developed quickly. H5N1 is a zoonotic pathogen so it can be transferred from birds to humans. Usually it is transferred through chickens on poultry farms.
The vaccine for H5N1 is being made using recombinant technology where 2 viruses are combined. A vaccine strain that was already made for Newcastle disease was used. This virus naturally infects poultry. A small section of the H5N1 virus was inserted into the Newcastle virus vaccine to create a vaccine for H5N1. This way, the body can develop antibodies against the virus but will not contract it. If the pathogen then enters the body, the antibodies will be able to recognize them and stop them from spreading.
H7N9 is currently active in China. It is currently less of an issue as it has a much lower mortality rate of about 35%. Researchers are working on a vaccine for this pathogen too. This virus has been active since 2013.