Vaccine production

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How are vaccines produced?

Vaccines are made from dead (inactivated) or modified (attenuated live) whole microbes, or from inactivated or recombinant parts of microbes that are responsible for disease (such as toxins or surface proteins).

Although it can take a long time to produce vaccines, they are not difficult to produce. It is the extensive testing required to ensure there are no unintended consequences from them that takes time. The challenge of producing and rolling out vaccines across the population depends on the technical, ethical and regulatory hurdles to overcome.

Over past few centuries we have managed to develop successful vaccines for many diseases, including yellow fever, rubella and tuberculosis; however the emergence of new diseases, adaptations of old diseases, and global travel, means that novel vaccines are increasingly required.

 Why does vaccine production matter to microbiology?

Currently, there are no vaccines to protect against two major worldwide killers, malaria and HIV. However, recent scientific advances have increased the likelihood of developing new and better vaccines against infectious diseases. These advances include:

  • Increased knowledge of microbes and how they spread disease
  • Use of molecular biology and biochemistry for vaccine design
  • A better understanding of the immune system

Read more about why vaccine production matters to our members and the wider microbiology community; access our resources, and continue to read more about why vaccination matters to microbiology, as we explore vaccination and herd immunity below.

  • Microbiologists working in this area

    To celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2020, we invited microbiologists to nominate the discovery or event that best showcases why microbiology matters and helps us demonstrate the impact of microbiologists past, present and future. Learn more about the microbiologists who are working in the field of vaccine production.

  • Resources and further reading

    Discover more about how scientists are developing new vaccines to fight emerging infections, a new vaccine developed for infectious laryngotracheitis and how researchers have been using a combination of probiotics and vaccines to try and reduce the spread of a deadly fish disease.

  • Vaccination and herd immunity

    Herd or population immunity is the resistance of a group of people to infection. We will explore why vaccines are an incredibly powerful public health tool and the research which aims to protect populations from disease.

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