The first known attempts of vaccination date back to the 7th century when monks in India would drink snake venom in an effort to immunize themselves against the slithering serpents. Talk about experimental medicine.
Thankfully much has changed since then. The first known Western vaccine, developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, inoculated a 13-year-old boy with vaccinia virus (cowpox), and the boy became immune to the deadly and ubiquitous smallpox. Since then, billions of vaccinations of myriad types of vaccines have been administered to humans.
With vaccinations dominating the headlines these days, you might be asking yourself, how are vaccines made? It’s completely valid to want to know what’s going into your body. Keep reading to find out the process that goes into developing vaccines and the steps required before you get that shot in the arm.
What Is a Vaccine?
A vaccine is a medicine that contains the same germs that are in the disease or virus that you are looking to combat. However, the difference is that the germs used in vaccine development have been either weakened or killed completely so that they don’t make you sick.
Your body still recognizes these germs as a threat and your immune system becomes stimulated and begins to produce antibodies to fight against the disease. After inoculation, your body produces enough antibodies to develop immunity against the threat of the virus or disease. While most medicine treats diseases, a vaccine prevents them.
How Are Vaccines Made?
All vaccines use the antigen, which comes from the disease or virus itself and produces a response from your immune system. The antigen could be a small amount of the disease-causing organism such as a sugar or protein, or a killed or weakened form of the whole organism.
There are many other ingredients added to the vaccine to keep it safe for your body and to avoid contamination.
Preservatives prevent contamination once the bottle has been opened when intended for multiple people. Single-dose vials will not contain preservatives because they will be discarded after administered.
Stabilizers can include sugars, amino acids, and proteins to prevent chemical reactions within the dose. It also acts to prevent the medicine from adhering to the vial.
A diluent is usually used right before use. This creates the right consistency for injection and is usually in the form of sterile water.
These make sure the ingredients in the vaccine remain in liquid form and do not cluster or clump together. Surfactants are commonly used in certain foods as well, such as ice cream.
Adjuvants can be trace amounts of aluminum salts and are sometimes used to enhance the immune response from the body.
Once vaccines are developed, they go through an arduous testing and screening process that can take years to ensure efficacy and safety. Once the vaccine has been approved, it is distributed to other parts of the world through cold chain shipping to make sure the product is temperature-controlled and delivered safely and uncontaminated.
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Information Is Power
With vaccinations being a hot topic these days it’s understandable that folks want to educate themselves on them as much as possible. Most people are conscious of what they put into their bodies, so it makes sense to wonder, “how are vaccines made?”
Hopefully, this article has provided the basics to help you achieve a better understanding. If you found this informative, be sure to check out our vast catalogue of educational articles on everything from health to business to sports to technology.