How are vaccines developed?

This article is part of a series of explainers on vaccine development and distribution. Learn more about vaccines – from how they work and how they’re made to ensuring safety and equitable access – in WHO’s Vaccines Explained series.

What are the ingredients in a vaccine?

Vaccines contain tiny fragments of the disease-causing organism or the blueprints for making the tiny fragments. They also contain other ingredients to keep the vaccine safe and effective. These latter ingredients are included in most vaccines and have been used for decades in billions of doses of vaccine.

Each vaccine component serves a specific purpose, and each ingredient is tested in the manufacturing process. All ingredients are tested for safety.

Antigen

All vaccines contain an active component (the antigen) which generates an immune response, or the blueprint for making the active component. The antigen may be a small part of the disease-causing organism, like a protein or sugar, or it may be the whole organism in a weakened or inactive form.

Vaccines topic 2 01 Vaccine Antigens

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