Infectious Disease Care
How Vaccines Are Developed
CUUR Diagnostics
Topic: How Vaccines Are Developed
Vaccines: The Basics

The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has been quite a challenge for most of the world. One of the hope in fighting the virus is the development of an effective vaccine. Today, at the end of 2020 there is talk of several vaccines coming to the market in “warp speed” timing. 

Let’s take a look at how vaccines are developed. 

It is no secret that vaccines contain the same virus that causes the disease. The part of the virus in a vaccine is known as an antigen. The virus or antigen (often a protein from the virus) has been modified by either killing or weakening it so the vaccine won’t make you ill. 

Vaccines and the pathogen-imposter

A vaccine or antigen activates your immune system to trigger or produce antibodies against the virus. Having antibodies that attack the specific virus is what makes vaccines so powerful in the fight against them. This is why it is so important to identify the most effective antigen in a virus. The identification process can be time consuming.

Antigens in the Fight

[Antigena toxin or other foreign substance which induces an immune response in the body, especially the production of antibodies.]

Identifying an effective antigen from a virus can be an extensive and lengthy process. This is where the science comes in. A typical vaccine development process can take 10 to 15 years. Finding the effective antigen is just the first step. 

Developers of vaccines use small amounts of antigens to allow the body to recognize the threat and trigger a response. There are many ingredients in a vaccine that help create an effective response.

Adjuvants, found in antacids, buffered aspirin, and antiperspirants help boost the body’s response.

Stabilizers help the vaccine remain viable after production. The actual length of time or how a vaccine must be kept can vary. For instance one of the proposed vaccines needs to be kept at negative 100 degrees while in transit. Special transportation containers are used to maintain this temperatures. Dry Ice is also used for transportation.

Formaldehyde prevents contamination by bacteria during the vaccine manufacturing process. Most don’t know that formaldehyde resides in the body naturally and also in preservatives, household products and in our environment. You know that new carpet smell? Part of that is formaldehyde.

Many of the ingredients that go into the creation of the final vaccine are removed leaving only trace amounts.

Step 1: Exploratory Research

Step 2: Preclinical (Judging safety and efficacy)

Step 3: Clinical (Judging safety and efficacy in humans)

Step 4: Regulatory Review and Approval

Step 5: Production

Step 6: Quality Control and Performance Review

Learn More from Pfizer

Vaccine Safety

Safety of the patient is often a major topic surrounding vaccine development. Before a vaccine is ever given to people, FDA oversees extensive laboratory testing. So, how is it that the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in months not years. One reason given by a developer of vaccines is that governmental “red tape” was reduced by the presidents “Warp Speed” program. This paved the way for expedited development. Double blind trials are also a part of the development.

Vaccines are not always without noticeable or mild side effects. These effects can include a low-grade fever, or pain and redness at the injection site. Mild reactions usually go away in a few days on their own. Severe, long lasting side effects are extremely rare. It is important to follow ALL of the manufacturers instructions. Some vaccines are a one-time dose and others can be multiple doses an a very specific schedule. 

The desired result of an effective vaccine is to trigger a “programmed” immune system response. One whereby the immune system remembers a particular disease agent by allowing it to practice on a weakened or killed version of the pathogen. This is called the primary response to a pathogen.

If a pathogen invades the body at a later time, the immune system is ready to respond with a swift defense. This is called a secondary response to a pathogen. Secondary responses happen faster and at a greater magnitude than a primary response, because the immune system had previously experienced the pathogen.

Ultimately, it is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. See the Center for Disease Control (CDC) vaccine information statement (VIS)

Infectious Disease Care

Check Out this History of Vaccine Slide Show

You will learn about Antigen-presenting cell, T Helper Cell, Naive B cell, Plasma B cell, and Antibodies.

CREDIT: The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
Infectious Disease Care

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