Vaccines save millions of lives throughout the world each and every year. However, what methods are used to find them and why are they normally so very effective? It is a good idea if we take a closer look at these important questions.
Weakening the Virus
The goal of any virologist is to find a way to weaken an existing virus. The weaker form is then given to the patient. In turn, his or her body will develop an immunity to the substance (while the virus will not be strong enough to cause a major illness). The key to this entire process revolves around a few different strategies.
One of the ways to weaken a virus is to hinder its capability to reproduce. So, it is rendered virtually harmless. Or, the virus is killed with a chemical before it is given to the patient. Finally, only a portion of the organism can be used so that less of a danger is present (this is how the vaccine for Hepatitis B is created).
Another highly effective method is to very literally grow a virus in laboratory settings. These cultures are then studied and experimented upon. As this is done within controlled settings, there is no risk that the virus will be transmitted outside of the lab. Growing cultures in this way can help us understand how a virus or bacteria operates. In turn, this provides scientists with an insight that would not have been possible in human subjects. Companies such as Biolamina specialise in such tasks and a great many organisms are studied in this way. In fact, even human stem cells can be examined.
An important step in finding a correct vaccine is through the use of phased trials to determine its safety. The first phase will primarily look at how a small portion of healthy adults react once it is administered. The second phase will give this potential vaccine to a few hundred individuals. The third and final stage will provide the treatment to a massive audience and observe the ultimate outcome (once it has been deemed safe).
After the virus is initially weakened and these phases are completed, a vaccine can then be made available to the general public.