How are vaccines made?


Quick Answer

Vaccines are designed to deliver a weakened or dead version of the target pathogen to the recipient's body to stimulate an immune response. This trains the patient's immune system to recognize and efficiently fight off the wild strain when it is encountered, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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Full Answer

The exact mechanism for producing a vaccine varies by the type of pathogen it is designed to target and by the needs of the recipients. Healthy people with active immune systems can be given a live vaccine. These vaccines are produced by breeding the wild strain in a series of nonhuman hosts, such as chicken embryos, to reduce its ability to infect humans. The weakened pathogen generally does not cause infection because the host's immune system reacts quickly enough to kill it off before symptoms develop. Patients with compromised immune systems, such as AIDS patients, cannot be exposed to the live agent, however weakened. Vaccines for at-risk individuals usually contain dead pathogens, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Another solution for at-risk patients is vaccines containing only a single fragment of the virus, usually a protein from its surface. The vaccines for HPV and hepatitis B are made in this way.

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