Like a soldier’s training officer: How does a vaccine work?

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By Julius D. Mariveles and Bianca C. Montilla

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – A vaccine for the COVID-19 could just be around the corner, the Daily Mail reported today.

Is this the cure for the dreaded disease?

First, the Centers for Disease Control says a vaccine “stimulates your immune system to produce antibodies” to make your body develop immunity to the disease.

Without you getting sick first.

In simpler terms, it prevents a disease.

“This is what makes vaccines such powerful medicines; unlike most medicines which treat or cure diseases, vaccines prevent them,” the CDC added.

How is a vaccine developed? Physician Sebastian Tabuga, provincial quarantine officer, told DNX the first step is a genetic sequencing.

The National Human Genome Research Institute explains sequencing means the orders of the four chemical building blocks, called “bases” are determined first.

These “bases” are made up of chemicals that always bond with the same partner to form base pairs

These pairs produce the code that is copied when cells inside our bodies divide.

Think instructions passed along a factory line.

So what does a vaccine do?

After the bases are identified, a vaccine can be developed.

Louie Fernandez, a nurse at the Provincial Health Office who handles epidemiology and disease surveillance, tells DNX sequencing can be likened to identifying how a house is made, say, where the beams are located, where the roof is attached to, where the rooms are, in short how it really looks like.

Or a killer’s mug shot and a dossier.

What is a vaccine made of?

Louie explains after the DNA or RNA of a virus is known, scientists can start to make a vaccine that is composed of a dead virus, say of COVID-19, or an attenuated one.

MedicineNet defines “attenuated” as a “weakened, less vigorous virus” capable of “stimulating an immune response and creating immunity, but not causing illness.”

Think a dead killer being shown to soldiers.

Louie says the vaccine is basically a way to train the antibodies to train against the virus.

Think SEAL Team Six training specifically against Osama bin Laden.

With the immune system or the body’s natural defense already trained to identify the killers and how it moves, antibodies or soldiers can be trained to fight them.

How is the vaccine approved?

In United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) is the agency that will take charge in regulating the vaccines.

The following is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) multi-step Vaccine Product Approval Process.

  • An Investigational New Drug application
  • Pre-licensure vaccine clinical trials
  • A Biologics License Application (BLA)
  • Inspection of the manufacturing facility
  • Presentation of findings to FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory CommitteeExternal (VRBPAC)
  • Usability testing of product labeling
  • After the process, FDA continues to work on its production especially the vaccine’s production to instill safety to potential drug users. Then, they will require the manufacturer/s to hold a license for legal concerns.

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