Clinicians say they might have a rheumatic fever vaccine in late-stage trials in three years time.
Maori and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately at risk from the disease, which is caused by what is known as a Strep A bug that can lead to heart damage.
Professor John Fraser from the Australian Society for Infectious Diseases will today tell a meeting in Auckland that the vaccine would be a 'real game changer'.
The society said scientists have been trying to develop a vaccine for eighty years.
But Professor Fraser said he was the most confident he had ever been that a medical solution is within reach.
He said that was partly thanks to a new initiative funded by the New Zealand and Australian governments.
Professor Fraser said the backing for the Coalition to Advance New Vaccines for Group A Streptococcus (CANVAS) was finally making progress.
Damp housing, poverty and a lack of access to medical care are associated underlying causes of rheumatic fever.
A Northland doctor, meanwhile, said the prospect of a new vaccine against the bacteria that causes rheumatic fever, could bring relief from what is a serious problem in the Far North.
Lance O'Sullivan, who has a practice in Kaitaia, said the Northland region is a hotspot for rheumatic fever, where the equivalent of a classroom of children, or 35 people, were suffering from it now.