How Are Vaccines Made?

by Amanda Barnett

Oklahoma could be the first state in the nation to get the green light on a vaccination plan for Covid-19 according to the interim Health Commissioner.

The race for a Covid-19 vaccine is well underway, and the results are beginning to look promising. Right now five vaccines in the final clinical trial stages.  But what does that mean for the development of a vaccine?

  “It’s a lot of trial and error in the lab to figure out the best way to do this to get the maximum immune response” Dr. Eliza Chakravarty, a rheumatologist and epidemiologist at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, said.

“You need to introduce tiny bits of viral particles to the immune system so that the immune system can recognize it as a foreign invader and mount an immune response,” Dr. Chakravarty said. 

The White House has promised vaccine distribution will begin within 24 hours of its approval by the Food and Drug Administration.  

In Oklahoma, the vaccination distribution plan will first target frontline health care workers and those most vulnerable to the virus.

Nationwide, Johnson & Johnson is a candidate for the distribution plan. According to MSN, it is the only company that is producing a single-dose vaccine. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine is in the third stage of testing and has a “98 percent success rate.

“I’m really hoping we’ll get [a vaccine] approved by this spring.” Dr. Chakravarty said. “Once one or more get FDA approval, it will then be an enormous effort to get enough vaccine made for the population and be able to distribute it to where it’s needed.” 

Even when a vaccine is available there could still be fears of the safety of the vaccine itself.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state scientists will have its own independent review of the vaccine before it is distributed.  Federal health officials said Americans should trust the future vaccine. 

Chakravarty has concerns of her own. 

“It might not be effective enough and people have a false sense of security that they are protected,” she said.   “[Also] we need to be sure that the immune response to the vaccine is not too strong to make people sick. Often, people feel a little “flu-ish” after getting the flu shot and most of the time, it’s just the immune system revving up to make the proper immune response rather than an actual infection. That confuses a lot of people, then they don’t want to get vaccinated in the future.” 

In the end, Chakravarty said Oklahomans may have a choice when it comes to picking a vaccine.  “I anticipate that we will end up with more than one [vaccine] that is approved, and time will tell which turns out to be the best.”

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