There are broadly four different platforms that are used to develop viral vaccines:

  • whole virus
  • protein
  • viral vector
  • nucleic acid 

Whole virus and protein vaccines are well-established platforms (refer to Table 1). Examples of whole virus, live attenuated vaccines are measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and rotavirus vaccine; inactivated vaccines: hepatitis A and rabies; and protein vaccines: hepatitis B and acellular pertussis.

Viral vector and nucleic acid vaccines are more novel platforms (refer to Table 2). The only viral vector vaccine licensed for human use is the ebola vaccine by Merck (USA). There is no licensed nucleic acid vaccine.

A description of each platform and general advantages/disadvantages is provided in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Whole virus and protein vaccines

Table 1

Table 2. Viral vector and nucleic acid vaccines

Table 2


Last updated April 2023