The Vaccine Research theme

Vaccine Research

Led by Professor Alison Elliot

Vaccination is a key instrument to promote human health. It is critical to the prevention and control of infectious disease outbreaks and of endemic infectious diseases. According to the WHO, vaccines currently protect against over 20 life-threatening illnesses and avert up to five million deaths worldwide every year from diseases including diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, influenza, and measles.

However, despite the general success of vaccines as a public health intervention, effective vaccines are not yet available for several infectious diseases of priority in Africa. These include viruses that cause major outbreaks in African populations – Ebola (Sudan), Marburg, Rift Valley and Congo-Crimean Haemorrhagic Fever among others – and endemic diseases such as HIV and parasitic diseases such as worm infections.

Moreover, some populations and individuals do not gain full benefit from existing vaccines.  Biological, social and structural factors can all stand in the way.  Some vaccines produce poorer vaccine responses and are less efficacious in certain (often poor, rural) communities.  Social, cultural and logistical factors all influence uptake of available vaccines, and structural, political and economic factors determine whether vaccines reach communities at all, and in good condition. 

Together this calls for a holistic approach to build vaccine research capacity across the African continent, developing vaccines against pathogens of particular relevance to the region, and context-specific strategies to optimise the benefits that vaccines deliver to at-risk populations.

Through key epidemiology and clinical trials, our team of vaccine researchers are working at all stages of the vaccine development pipeline to contribute to the development and implementation of relevant vaccines, and context-specific techniques and measures for harnessing vaccine response and efficacy.

Our work is consolidated under two key focus areas

  1. Vaccines for viruses

Studies herein contribute to the control and prevention of viral infectious diseases through vaccine development, trials and implementation research aimed at:

  • Investigating vaccine hesitancy and identifying strategies to support vaccine uptake
  • Determining the safety, immunogenicity, efficacy and effectiveness of vaccines or vaccines with other interventions, and of vaccine schedules, for disease prevention in Africa
  • Contributing to national and regional vaccine development strategies
  • Identifying and preparing populations for future vaccine trials


Related projects

A phase IIb three-arm, two-stage HIV prophylactic vaccine trial with a second randomisation to compare TAF/FTC to TDF/FTC as pre-exposure prophylaxis. (PrEPVacc)


Development of an HIV negative registration cohort for future participation in an HIV vaccine study


A randomized, observer-blind, dose-escalation phase 2 clinical trial of COVAC-2 in generally healthy adults


A parallel-group, phase III, multi-stage, modified double-blind, multi-armed study to assess the efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of two SARS-CoV-2 adjuvanted recombinant protein vaccines (monovalent and bivalent) for prevention against COVID-19 in adults 18 years of age and older


A phase I study to determine the safety and immunogenicity of the candidate rift valley fever virus (RVFV) vaccine Chadox1 rvf among healthy adult volunteers in Uganda.


Optimising DTP-containing vaccine infant immunisation schedules in Uganda (OPTIMMS)


A phase Ib study to assess the safety and immunogenicity of a recombinant adenovirus-based vaccine against plague in Uganda (PlaVac)


Novel Adenovector Covid-19 vaccine design


Characterizing the Global Immune Response to SARS-CoV-2 in COVID-19 Acutely Infected, Recovered and Vaccinated Ugandans


Preparation and pre-clinical evaluation of an Inactivated COVID-19 vaccine


A phase I/II Randomized Placebo-controlled trial to evaluate the Safety and Immunogenicity of Sudan ebolavirus vaccines in Uganda (Tokomeza)


A Phase 1 Trial of ChAdOx1- and MVA-vectored Conserved Mosaic HIV-1 Vaccines in Healthy, Adult HIV-1-negative Volunteers in Eastern and Southern Africa (HIV core Trial)


An open-label, single arm study to provide additional information on immunogenicity and safety of Ad26.ZEBOV/MVA-BN-Filo (ZEBOVAC)


Focus Area Experts

  • Dr. Eugene Ruzagira
  • Professor Pontiano Kaleebu
  • Dr. Sheila Balinda
  • Dr. Jennifer Sserwanga
  • Dr. Yunia Mayanja
  • Dr. Freddie Kibengo
  • Dr. Paul Kitandwe
  • Dr. Zacchaeus Anywaine
  • Dr. Joseph Lutakoome
  • Dr. Sylvia Kusemererwa
  • Dr. Ggayi Abubaker
  • Dr. Geoffrey Kimbugwe
  • Dr. Jonathan Kitonsa
  • Dr. Anne Wajja
  • Dr. Mary Nyantaro


  1. Immunomodulation and vaccines

Research in this focus area seeks to determine why some vaccine responses are impaired in rural, low-income, tropical settings, and what can be done to optimise them. In addition, teams are working on tuberculosis and schistosomiasis vaccine related studies.  The overall aim of this work is to:

  • Identify key modifiable social and biological exposures and mechanistic pathways that influence vaccine responses and impact
  • Model and test interventions to improve vaccine impact in vulnerable communities
  • Understand the immune response to tuberculosis at the site of disease
  • Develop and test vaccines for schistosomiasis, in particular by establishing a controlled human infection model for schistosomiasis in Uganda.


Related projects

NIHR Global Health Group on Vaccines for Vulnerable people in Africa (Vanguard)


The impact of differential parasite exposure on immunological and metabolic predictors of vaccine response in the tropics


A multicentre phase II double blind randomized  controlled study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of UPM1002 in comparison to BCG (PriMe)


A TB postmortem feasibility study


A multi-country epidemiologic study to assess the interferon gamma release assay (IGRA) positivity, and to build capacity to conduct a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine efficacy study, in populations with a high TB disease burden


Uganda Multidisciplinary Schistosomiasis Research Center


Controlled Human Infection Studies for Schistosomiasis Vaccine Development in Africa


Focus Area Experts

  • Professor Alison Elliott
  • Dr. Gyaviira Nkurunungi
  • Dr. Ludoviko Zirimenya
  • Dr. Irene Andia
  • Dr. Steve Cose
  • Dr. Anne Wajja
  • Dr. Moses Egesa
  • Dr. Patrice Mawa