Vaccines, such as the one developed by Bharat Biotech, work by triggering an immune response in humans by utilizing the disease-causing virus itself.
The authorities clarified on Wednesday that Covaxin, the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Bharat Biotech in Hyderabad, did not include the serum of a newborn calf. This was in reaction to social media conversations over the inclusion of calf serum in Covaxin.
The government reaffirmed the well-known use of calf serum, as well as serum derived from other species, in the production of vaccines in the clarification. These are used in the laboratory to cultivate the disease-causing virus, bacterium, or other pathogens, but they do not form part of the vaccine.
Culture process for the Vaccines
Vaccines, such as the one developed by Bharat Biotech, work by triggering an immune response in humans by utilizing the disease-causing virus itself. Although the virus is destroyed or inactivated before being utilized in a vaccine and administered into the human body, it still has the ability to cause an immune reaction.
The virus must be cultivated, or cultured, in the laboratory before being utilized in the vaccine. Scientists aim to recreate the type of environment that exists in an affected person’s tissues in order to provide circumstances favorable for the proliferation of these viruses. As a result, liquids containing “nutrients” serve as the virus’s growth medium.
The virus thrives in these nutrient-dense environments. It then passes through numerous purification processes before being ready to be utilized in a vaccine. After the entire procedure, there is no sign of the growing media.
Importance of Calf Serum
Cow constituents are utilized primarily because cows are big animals that are readily accessible and rich invaluable compounds and enzymes, according to the US Food and Drug Administration’s website.
“Amino acids and sugars like galactose can be found in cow milk. Glycerol is a component of cow tallow derivatives used in vaccine production. Cow bones provide gelatin and certain amino acids. Broths made from cow skeletal muscle are utilized in some complicated media. Many difficult-to-grow microorganisms and viral propagation cells require the addition of serum from blood to the culture medium,” said the administration sources.
Synthetic plasma and other micronutrients have also been created, but according to Thermo Fisher Scientific, a worldwide maker of these compounds, serum from newborn calves has “proved itself as an exceptionally effective growth supplement” for over 50 years.
Use of Animal Serums in Vaccines
The animal serum has also been utilized in the creation of vaccines in the past in various ways. Horse serum has been used as an antibody component in diphtheria vaccination for over a century. Horses were formerly injected with tiny amounts of diphtheria-causing germs in order to acquire antibodies. The blood of the sick animal was then utilized to extract the antibodies, which were then employed in the study.
The Poonawalla family’s journey from owning a horse-breeding farm that also supplied horse serum for vaccines to founding Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, is well-known.