Skip Navigation
Explore our COVID-19 Resources and Updates
CHS blue logo square
Home > Our Work > All Publications > 2021


Our publications keep professionals working across the public, private, and academic sectors informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

Find an article or report by keywords:

Find an article or report or see all by area, author, or year:


Safety and security concerns regarding transmissible vaccines

Jonas B. Sandbrink, Matthew C. Watson, Andrew M. Hebbeler & Kevin M. Esvelt
Date posted:
February 04, 2021
Publication type:
Nat Ecol Evol. 2021 Apr;5(4):405-406
See also:

To the Editor — Nuismer and Bull1 argue for the development of self-disseminating vaccines for cost-effective immunization of animal reservoirs to prevent zoonotic spillovers. The authors suggest two approaches: ‘transferable’ vaccines, non-contagious vaccines applied to animals and spread through behaviour such as grooming, and ‘transmissible’ vaccines, replication-competent virally vectored vaccines with potential for indefinite transmission across populations.

We agree with Nuismer and Bull that cost-effective vaccination of reservoir populations would be a great asset. Vaccination of animal reservoirs may reduce regular spillover of pathogens such as rabies and Lassa virus, and perhaps in rare cases even zoonotic pathogens with pandemic potential. However, we contend that the substantial safety and security risks around the advancement of transmissible vaccines outweigh potential benefits. While Nuismer and Bull touch on safety concerns around this approach, their brevity is not commensurate to the gravity of the associated safety and biosecurity risks. Instead of transmissible vaccines, we propose that efforts focus on the safer and more predictable transferable vaccine approach to achieve cost-effective vaccination of reservoir populations.



Our Mission

To protect people’s health from epidemics and disasters and ensure that communities are resilient to major challenges.