Is There a Necessity in Plague Vaccine in the 21st century?

The Great Plague killed 200 million people. The latest outbreak was in 2017 in Madagascar, and it caused regional panic. There is no available licensed vaccine until today. So, is there a need for a plague vaccine in the 21st century, or is this just a passing outbreak that will go away in time?

What Is the Plague?

The plague is caused by a bacterial pathogen called Yersinia pestis. It is one of the oldest and most devastating infectious diseases in human history. It persists but is currently less active than other infectious diseases.

The issue now is that Y. pestis has been used as biological warfare. It was used in the Cold War, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) was able to detect it as a potent biological weapon in aerosol form.

In natural cases, the plague is transferred to humans after a flea bite. In this case, the human host will show symptoms in bubonic form. The infected human might develop symptoms like pneumonia or sepsis if no treatment is administered soon.

On the other hand, direct inhalation of the Y. pestis can be lethal. Its primary symptom is pneumonia, and the bacteria has a short incubation period of between one and three days. However, the disease progresses rapidly, and it has a high fatality rate.

Current Development

In the UK, scientists who are behind the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine are already in the process of giving trial volunteers to take the plague vaccine.

One of the volunteers, Larissa, said that she is doing this in the hopes of saving lives. She is a geneticist and is volunteering for this research at the University of Oxford.

The first phase of the trial involves 40 individuals who are healthy. These individuals are between 18 to 55 years of age. The vaccine for the plague uses the same technology as the coronavirus one.

The vaccine is going to target the bacteria that cause the disease. However, this should not be confused with targeting the coronavirus, as it is a different vaccine.

The research aims to prevent what happened in the 1300s when the Black Death killed more than half of Europe’s population. Until today, there are cases of the plague in Asia, America, and Africa.

Is There an Alternative?

The mode of treating the disease now is the use of antibiotics. However, this treatment must be given early to the patient. The problem now is that many of the areas that suffer from an outbreak are remote.

Because of this, there is a need to develop a vaccine that would protect the lives of people who live in those areas without having to wait for the symptoms to appear.

The trial that is happening in the UK right now will show the researchers how well the body responds to it. The expectation is for the body to fight it after the vaccination.

Additional Genes from the Bacteria

Like the covid vaccine, the one being developed for the plague uses a weakened version of another virus that causes the common cold or the adenovirus. This virus was taken from chimpanzees, so it cannot cause any infection in humans.

Also, the vaccine does not contain the real Black Death bacteria, so it cannot cause the outbreak. However, it does contain some genes from the bacteria. This gene will help the body recognize it and fight it.

It is similar to how several slot machines work in Vulkan casino—the core concept is the same, but the outcome of the gameplay is different.

Other emerging viruses

According to the researchers, they will use the same approach to other infectious diseases. A clinical researcher for the Oxford Vaccine Group stated that they have already begun trials for other illnesses such as meningitis B and the Zika virus.

The trial is going to run for a year, and they will publish the results. The study is funded by Innovate UK.


Viruses will always be around, and it is the responsibility of humans to combat them. Humans need to receive the vaccination to ensure that their bodies are able to fight the virus when it hits them. Humans will endure, and there will come a time when these viruses will no longer be around.