The COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people with no clear signs of abatement owing to the high prevalence, long incubation period and lack of established treatments or vaccines. Vaccines are the most promising solution to mitigate new viral strains. The genome sequence and protein structure of the 2019-novel coronavirus (nCoV or SARS-CoV-2) were made available in record time, allowing the development of inactivated or attenuated viral vaccines along with subunit vaccines for prophylaxis and treatment. Nanotechnology benefits modern vaccine design since nanomaterials are ideal for antigen delivery, as adjuvants, and as mimics of viral structures. In fact, the first vaccine candidate launched into clinical trials is an mRNA vaccine delivered via lipid nanoparticles. To eradicate pandemics, present and future, a successful vaccine platform must enable rapid discovery, scalable manufacturing and global distribution. Here, we review current approaches to COVID-19 vaccine development and highlight the role of nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing.