Animal virology has made outstanding contributions to preventive medicine by the development of vaccines for the control of infectious disease in man and animals. Cost-benefit analysis indicates substantial savings in health care costs from the control of diseases such as smallpox, poliomyelitis, yellow fever and measles. Areas for further development include vaccines for influenza (living, attenuated virus), the herpes group (varicella: cytomegalovirus), respiratory syncytial virus, rotavirus and hepatitis A, B, and non A/non B. The general options for vaccine formulation are discussed with particular emphasis on approaches with the use of viral genetics to `tailor make' vaccine viruses with defined growth potential in laboratory systems, low pathogenicity, and defined antigens. Current progress with the development of an inactivated hepatitis B vaccine is reviewed as a case study in vaccine development. The impact of recent experiments in cloning hepatitis B virus DNA in E. coli on the production of a purified viral polypeptide vaccine is assessed.