28 Sep How the Flu Vaccine is made
The Coronavirus has stolen the headlines for the last two years or so. However, there is another illness that we need to be paying attention to as well which is responsible for a huge number of hospitalisations every year without fail. It is, of course, influenza or the flu as it is more commonly called. As with the Coronavirus a vaccine to stop the worst effects of the flu has been developed over many years. A vaccine may stop you from getting the illness altogether, or becoming very ill with it, by giving you immunity to it. In other words the body thinks it has already had the illness and the white blood and T cells that fight infection have the right tools to be able to protect our body. How is the vaccine manufactured?
The production of the vaccine is an annual process. The medical scientists look at computer modelling that suggests which strain of the flu is going to be the most dominant next year. They then try to produce the most effective mix to combat the strains of the flu for that year. For the most part this is a mix of strains A and B, the most common types however these also break down into sub strains that also need to be included. Clinical Trial Volunteers, like those from trials4us, are utilised to see if the new vaccine is effective against the strains.
Before they are administered to us, or the volunteers, they are grown in hens eggs. The eggs provide the perfect natural environment to grow the strains and cultures that will be used. They also allow all the different strains of the flu to grow together in one place rather than separating them out into different hosts. Once this is done they are then killed or neutralised so as to be ineffective when administered to us. If this is not done then we are effectively giving ourselves the virus. This is a dormant virus that only becomes active when someone with the flu passes it on to us. Then the body believes that it has already had the virus from the dormant form injected. It then uses the T cells and antibodies to fight this new live infection.
The other items that need to be added to the vaccine are the stabilisers and preservatives that maintain the strains in the solutions that they are stored in. This can be the source of some controversy. For example, one of the components used is Mercury. However this, and the other additives, are soon flushed from the body through our urine.
The vaccine has helped us to live our lives through the winter without having to worry about the effects of the flu encroaching on what we do everyday. So many working days are lost through illness and this can help to stave this off.