Vaccines against infectious bronchitis of chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) have arguably been the most successful, and certainly the most widely used, of vaccines for diseases caused by coronaviruses, the others being against bovine, canine, feline and porcine coronaviruses. Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), together with the genetically related coronaviruses of turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) and ring-necked pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), is a group 3 coronavirus, Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus being tentatively in group 4, the other known mammalian coronaviruses being in groups 1 and 2. IBV replicates not only in respiratory tissues (including the nose, trachea, lungs and airsacs, causing respiratory disease), but also in the kidney (associated with minor or major nephritis), oviduct, and in many parts of the alimentary tract—the oesophagus, proventriculus, duodenum, jejunum, bursa of Fabricius, caecal tonsils, rectum and cloaca, usually without clinical effects. The virus can persist, being re-excreted at the onset of egg laying (4 to 5 months of age), believed to be a consequence of the stress of coming into lay. Genetic lines of chickens differ in the extent to which IBV causes mortality in chicks, and in respect of clearance of the virus after the acute phase. Live attenuated (by passage in chicken embryonated eggs) IBV strains were introduced as vaccines in the 1950s, followed a couple of decades later by inactivated vaccines for boosting protection in egg-laying birds. Live vaccines are usually applied to meat-type chickens at 1 day of age. In experimental situations this can result in sterile immunity when challenged by virulent homologous virus. Although 100% of chickens may be protected (against clinical signs and loss of ciliary activity in trachea), sometimes 10% of vaccinated chicks may not respond with a protective immune response. Protection is short lived, the start of the decline being apparent 9 weeks after vaccination with vaccines based on highly attenuated strains. IBV exists as scores of serotypes (defined by the neutralization test), cross-protection often being poor. Consequently, chickens may be re-vaccinated, with the same or another serotype, two or three weeks later. Single applications of inactivated virus has generally led to protection of <50% of chickens. Two applications have led to 90 to 100% protection in some reports, but remaining below 50% in others. In practice in the field, inactivated vaccines are used in laying birds that have previously been primed with two or three live attenuated virus vaccinations. This increases protection of the laying birds against egg production losses and induces a sustained level of serum antibody, which is passed to progeny. The large spike glycoprotein (S) comprises a carboxy-terminal S2 subunit (approximately 625 amino acid residues), which anchors S in the virus envelope, and an amino-terminal S1 subunit (approximately 520 residues), believed to largely form the distal bulbous part of S. The S1 subunit (purified from IBV virus, expressed using baculovirus or expressed in birds from a fowlpoxvirus vector) induced virus neutralizing antibody. Although protective immune responses were induced, multiple inoculations were required and the percentage of protected chickens was too low (<50%) for commercial application. Remarkably, expression of S1 in birds using a non-pathogenic fowl adenovirus vector induced protection in 90% and 100% of chickens in two experiments. Differences of as little as 5% between the S1 sequences can result in poor cross-protection. Differences in S1 of 2 to 3% (10 to 15 amino acids) can change serotype, suggesting that a small number of epitopes are immunodominant with respect to neutralizing antibody. Initial studies of the role of the IBV nucleocapsid protein (N) in immunity suggested that immunization with bacterially expressed N, while not inducing protection directly, improved the induction of protection by a subsequent inoculation with inactivated IBV. In another study, two intramuscular immunizations of a plasmid expressing N induced protective immunity. The basis of immunity to IBV is not well understood. Serum antibody levels do not correlate with protection, although local antibody is believed to play a role. Adoptive transfer of IBV-infection-induced αβ T cells bearing CD8 antigen protected chicks from challenge infection. In conclusion, live attenuated IBV vaccines induce good, although short-lived, protection against homologous challenge, although a minority of individuals may respond poorly. Inactivated IBV vaccines are insufficiently efficacious when applied only once and in the absence of priming by live vaccine. Two applications of inactivated IBV are much more efficacious, although this is not a commercially viable proposition in the poultry industry. However, the cost and logistics of multiple application of a SARS inactivated vaccine would be more acceptable for the protection of human populations, especially if limited to targeted groups (e.g. health care workers and high-risk contacts). Application of a SARS vaccine is perhaps best limited to a minimal number of targeted individuals who can be monitored, as some vaccinated persons might, if infected by SARS coronavirus, become asymptomatic excretors of virus, thereby posing a risk to non-vaccinated people. Looking further into the future, the high efficacy of the fowl adenovirus vector expressing the IBV S1 subunit provides optimism for a live SARS vaccine, if that were deemed to be necessary, with the possibility of including the N protein gene.