How Are Vaccines Made? The Process Explained

Ever since the initial distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, more people than ever have asked: how are vaccines made?

This isn’t the first time that a vaccine has been developed under immense public scrutiny (remember the H1N1 influenza outbreak?), but it may be the most high-stakes example of this in recent history.

If you’re interested in the facts about vaccines and how they’re made, keep reading this guide!

Types of Vaccines

Vaccine technology is diverse. There are several types of effective vaccines on the market today.

“Weakened” vaccines use a small, weakened version of a virus to innoculate the body against it.

“Inactive” vaccines are made with a version of the virus that has been killed.

Scientists can also develop vaccines by isolating just one piece of a virus or bacteria. This is the strategy that created the shingles and tetanus vaccines.

Some COVID-19 vaccines contain the mRNA (genetic material) of the coronavirus. mRNA viruses usually require multiple doses to be effective, which is why the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines both require two doses.

Making Vaccines

Every new vaccine goes through a rigorous testing process before it’s released to the general public. Let’s break down the steps of this process!

Non-Human Testing

After scientists decide on the right recipe for a vaccine, they test it on animals first. It’s essential to make sure that a vaccine is safe before it gets tested on any humans.

Even at this stage, however, the vaccine will have been extensively researched already.

Small-Group Testing

Once a vaccine passes through animal testing, healthy young adults can volunteer to take it. These trials help determine the right dose of a vaccine and make sure it works as expected.

All vaccines go through multiple trials at this stage, moving from a small handful to, eventually, hundreds of volunteers.

Large-Group Blind Trials

The next stage of trials gives a vaccine to thousands of volunteers around the world. These are “blind” trials.

In a blind trial, researchers must compare people who took the vaccine with people who didn’t; without knowing who is who.

At this stage, vaccines must be safely shipped all around the world for testing. Cold chain shipping is a key part of this process and an essential component of vaccine safety.

Approval and Release to the General Public

Once a vaccine has made it through these trial stages, the FDA can decide whether or not to approve it.

Some vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccine, are made available to the public without FDA approval through Emergency Use Authorization.

However, even vaccines distributed under EUA are tested enough for scientists to know that they are perfectly safe.

How Are Vaccines Made? Now You Know

How do vaccines work? How are vaccines made? Now you know the answers to these important questions.

You can use this information to make safe and informed decisions about your healthcare; or, to correct misguided people on your Facebook feed. We’ll leave that up to you.

For more news from the health sector, check out the rest of our blog!