The COVID-9 pandemic saw vaccine creation at an unprecedented rate to combat the wildly spreading disease. However, not everyone understands what vaccines are and how they work. Because vaccines are such an integral tool in the healthcare world, we all must understand how vaccines are made and how they can benefit our overall health. Here’s what you need to know about vaccines and how they are made.
Types of Vaccines
Vaccines are made using an active component of the antigen it is designed to protect against. This component is usually a weakened portion of the antigen that can no longer replicate in human cells but is still recognized by the immune system, triggering an immune response. Not all vaccines are created the same way; here are the types of vaccines and how each type is unique.
Attenuated vaccines are created using a weekend but still living version of the antigen that is not strong enough to replicate in human cells. To weaken the antigen, it is repeatedly passed through animal cells, changing how the antigen replicates each time slightly. Eventually, this antigen will no longer be able to replicate in human cells, but it will still be recognizable to the immune system and trigger that protective response. Attenuated vaccines carry the risk of mutation, meaning the antigen mutates into a replicable state in the human host, though there is a low risk of this.
Inactive vaccines are similar to attenuated vaccines, but instead of keeping the pathogen alive, it is killed before being used in the vaccine. The pathogen is rendered inactive through freezing temperatures or chemicals. Though the antigen is dead, it is still fully intact and can be used as the active component of the vaccine. The immune system recognizes this dead antigen and will still trigger the immune response and build protection against the antigen. Though there is no risk of mutation with inactive vaccines, this vaccine type is generally weaker than the liver alternative and will likely require a booster shot sooner.
Toxoids are another type of vaccine that differs from inactive and attenuated vaccines in that it targets the toxins released by a bacteria rather than the bacteria itself. Toxoids are made by inactivating the toxin through the use of chemicals. Toxoids are similar to inactive vaccines but use only the toxin rather than the antigen itself.
Messenger RNA is a relatively new tool used by biopharma professionals to create vaccines. Messenger RNA is the strand in DNA responsible for holding the blueprints for building proteins. By isolating this strand and programming it with the protein blueprint of the antigen, scientists can create a highly effective vaccine against the disease. This mRNA reaches the host’s DNA and triggers the immune response that makes antibodies to fight the antigen. The COVD-19 pandemic saw the creation of several highly successful mRNA vaccines. Groups like Avantor supply “manufacturing solutions that support the development and production of life-changing treatments for patients around the world.” Companies like Avantor are critical to the large-scale and global research, manufacturing, and distribution of vaccines and other medical treatments. New vaccine technology and improved manufacturing infrastructure were essential for the rapid response to the pandemic.
Not all vaccines are created the same way, and there is a long history of research and development behind each new vaccine. A strong understanding of how vaccines are made and how they work in your body will help you make more informed decisions about your health in the future. Vaccines are an essential tool in public and personal healthcare.