Since the COVID-19 pandemic spurred a wave of widespread misinformation about vaccines, it’s more critical than ever to stay informed on the topic to make the best decisions for your health now and in the years to come. The rapid and effective development of the COVID vaccine is a testament to the advances in modern vaccine development and manufacturing. Here are the basics of vaccines and everything you need to know to understand the future of development and how to protect yourself against diseases now and in the years to come.
How do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines are meant to prepare your immune system to fight off infections and diseases. The earliest vaccines were developed using a weaker virus to bolster the immune system without making the person sick or developing any symptoms. The two traditional forms of vaccines are live attenuated vaccines and killed or inactive it. Live vaccines are traditionally created by passing a virus through a series of animal cells that continue to change the cell’s ability to replicate within its animal host. The virus gets better at replicating in an animal rather than a human, thus weakening the virus against human cells. When this attenuated virus is given to a human, it cannot replicate and disease the host, but the immune system will still be able to fight it and develop a response it can use to protect the host from the virus in the future. Killed or inactive vaccines are created using heat or chemicals on a pathogen to destroy its replication ability while keeping the virus intact and recognizable by the human immune system. These vaccines do not have any risk of mutation. However, they do not offer protection for as long and typically require boosters.
In the 1960s, scientists first started experimenting with delivering mRNA directly to cells. RNA is a polymeric molecule essential in gene expression, coding, and regulation. Messenger RNA or mRNA is a single strand within RNA that holds the instructions for building proteins. mRNA vaccines will deliver these protein instructions directly to the host’s immune system to help it build antibodies to fight off specific diseases.
Operation Warp Speed
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for a vaccine was more significant than ever, with an unprecedented spread that saw most of the world in lockdown. Operation Warp Speed, an initiative by the US government to accelerate the development of a vaccine, pushed researchers and manufacturers to create mRNA COVID vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna. The development of these vaccines was only possible with companies like Avantor, which “serve your biopharma needs from discovery to commercial launch with a portfolio of industry-leading production chemicals, single-use solutions, and sera, backed by our deep commitment to quality and innovation.” Biopharma manufacturing is essential for the reliable and safe production of vaccines worldwide. New technologies have allowed companies like Avantor to streamline vaccine manufacturing and distribution to serve large populations effectively.
The future of vaccine development will involve more significant strides in recombinant vaccines that utilize DNA structures to build greater immunity and developments in technology that will assist in the rapid development of vaccines. Today, machine learning has helped researchers quickly run tests and analyze data that streamlined many of the phases of vaccine development. Understanding the basics of how vaccines work and how scientists today are developing vaccines can help you make good decisions about your health in the future.
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