The world has come a long way in the vaccination industry. Continued research and publications have pushed through the controversies this essential disease prevention method provides. Even better, ongoing breakthroughs in technology have made the process safer, faster, and more effective than ever before.
Have a look below at the primary elements which showcase the current state of the vaccine industry today.
Getting to Know Vaccine Production
While a highly precise and complex process, vaccine production itself can be broken down into five primary components:[i]
- Antigen Development and Generation
Antigen is created by identifying a specific pathogen which causes a disease, growing the proteins and DNA to harvest, and creating the systems and processes to extract it. The current state of technology allows viruses to be efficiently grown on cells specific to a type of disease. For instance, hepatitis A is grown on a cell line where it reproduces at a rapid pace and influenza can be grown on a primary cell such as a chicken embryo or other mammalian cell.[ii]
Using bioreactors for bacteria and controlled growing in other circumstances, pathogens are rapidly reproduced at a high level of precision.
- Isolation of Antigen
Technologically advanced instruments can release an antigen and separate it from its growth cells. From there, it is also isolated further from other parts of the growth medium such as the proteins. This process yields the greatest amount of usable material for the eventual vaccine.
- Purification for Quality and Efficacy
Purity is absolutely essential for vaccine effectiveness. Without a stringent quality assurance and purification process, inconsistent results will occur. And these types of inconsistencies would result in a high number of potentially ineffective vaccinations.
Several techniques are utilized to further purify a protein based on a number of factors. Aspects such as protein size, binding potential, current biological processes, and overall physiochemical makeup will determine the exact purification process to be used. And the latest advancements allow for a high degree of purity across-the-board.
- Introduction of Stabilizers or Enhancements
Stabilizers and other enhancements are used to amplify a vaccine’s immune response in a patient while ensuring a long and stable storage life to maintain effectiveness. A material known as an adjuvant helps to enhance the overall bodily response to a vaccine from a recipient’s immune system. Furthermore, stabilizers maintain a vaccine’s shelf-life in order to successfully transport and administer it anywhere in the world.
Several steps have been made toward improving this particular area of vaccine development. For instance, one commonly misidentified preservative of many children’s vaccines – mercury – has not been present in the U.S. since 2001.[iii] Ongoing research ensures the total safety of vaccinations while maintaining or improving their overall effectiveness.
- Sterile Packaging
Finally, sterile and consistent packaging is the last step in affirming successful production of all vaccines. Protecting vaccines is essential to keep them viable and effective when administered. Therefore, packaging must provide ample and ongoing protection from factors such as water, air, and especially human contamination.[iv]
Many of the latest pushes in technology have focused on this final step. And as automation continues to advance, maintaining a fully sterilized production and packaging environment will only continue to improve in its efficiency.
The Hardware Behind the Vaccine Production Process
There are multiple types of equipment and hardware used in vaccine production. The following showcases the current industry standards for primary components of production.
- Bioreactor Systems
These are the components used to accommodate growth of a pathogen to be eventually used in a vaccine. Disposable cell bags can be used without the need for ongoing sterilization. This helps to prevent unnecessary risk and improve overall production results.[v]
Several tools within the purification process are used to filter out undesirable substances to yield the most potent and viable antigen sample. Current filtration methods include normal flow filtration (NFF) to clarify the initial cell membrane. From there, cross-flow filtration (CFF) focuses on hollow-fiber cartridges to concentrate the antigen further. Finally, sterilization filters help to improve the overall safety of each vaccine which is produced.[vi]
- Vaccine Vial Loading Trays
Another critical component to any vaccine production is the very loading trays which they are created in. Vaccine loading trays must be constructed with a durable material that remains both heat and cold resistant. In most cases, high-quality composites are used thanks to their durability, reliability, and overall strength throughout this process.[vii]
The Current Vaccine Market
Understanding the marketplace for vaccine production and distribution is a key factor in understanding the state of the industry as a whole. The pharmaceutical market itself is a behemoth in terms of the total amount of revenue it represents. And while the often inflated cost of pharmaceuticals remains a hot-button issue (particularly in the U.S.), the vaccine industry typically does not fall under this umbrella.[viii]
When compared to pharmaceuticals, vaccines are only a small element – both in supply and demand. This comes thanks to a strict level of regulation alongside a direct reliance on public purchases and donations.
The market varies based on specific vaccine types, demand for particular vaccines across the world, and the current supply. But these types of regulations and restrictions help to ensure the market maintains a high level of openness and accessibility – even within the ultra-competitive pharmaceutical marketplace.
Vaccination Development into the Future: A Bright Road Ahead
The state of technology has already helped propel the safety and effectiveness of vaccines even higher. This holds true in all areas – equipment, production, and even market regulation. By maintaining these high standards and pushing toward innovation, the world can help make this process even better into the future. And that will help to create a future that looks brighter for everyone.