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HomeYour HealthManaging Your HealthVaccines & PreventionTypes of Vaccines And How They Are MadeTypes of Vaccines And How They Are Made

Published on  Nov 30,  2022
Authored by Pfizer Medical Team

What are the different types of vaccines?

Live vaccines 
  • Live vaccines contain live viruses that have been weakened. Once injected, the weakened viruses can activate the body's natural defences.1

  • These vaccines may not be appropriate for people who have a weakened immune system (also known as immunocompromised).2

Inactivated vaccines
  • To produce inactivated vaccines, the virus is grown in a laboratory and is then killed by heat or chemical treatment.1

  • These vaccines are typically well tolerated by people who have a weakened immune system.2

Protein-based vaccines
  • These vaccines contain another ingredient called an adjuvant, which help the immune system to quickly respond when the body is under attack by the same disease-causing organism.1,4

  • Protein-based vaccines contain pieces of a disease-causing organism.3 A disease-causing organism can invade the body and make it sick.

mRNA vaccines
  • The mRNA is packaged inside a lipid nanoparticle, a tiny bubble of fat, that is a delivery vehicle to get the mRNA inside our cells and make proteins to fight the disease.6

  • mRNA vaccines contain instructions, or genetic code, to make a copy of the organism that causes illness. This then activates an immune response in our bodies.5

Viral-vector vaccines
  • These vaccines use a non-infectious virus, which can produce some of the same pieces as the disease-causing virus.7 However, some of these vaccines are not appropriate for people who have a weakened immune system.2

Subunit vaccines

These vaccines contain only part of the germ and are divided into four different types:

  • Recombinant vaccines incorporate small pieces of genetic material from the germ

  • Toxoid vaccines include inactivated versions of the toxins released by the germ

  • And conjugate vaccines include the sugar coating plus a carrier protein to stimulate a strong immune response

Process of how vaccines are made7:

  • Once a vaccine is approved, manufacturing begins to scale up. The manufacturing must be reliable, efficient, low-cost, and flexible to allow for on-demand production.

  • Every ingredient and component that goes into a vaccine needs to meet stringent criteria to guarantee the vaccines effectiveness and safety.

  • Manufacturing of nucleic acid vaccines, like mRNA, has advantages over older approaches. It is faster, it doesn’t require the controlled growth of cells, and the risk of impurities is lower.

  • Once the vaccine has been made in bulk quantities, it is bottled in glass vials or syringes, as glass is long lasting and able to withstand extreme temperatures.

  • Most vaccines require refrigerated storage and some of the newer vaccines now need to be kept ultra-cold at -70°C.

  • To maintain this cold temperature, specialized equipment is needed to constantly monitor the vaccines throughout the transportation and storage process.

  • Once vaccines start being administered, national authorities and the World Health Organization constantly monitor their manufacturing processes and performance to assure vaccine quality is maintained.

You may also be interested in:
- Explore how vaccines may help protect you and your family 


  1. Ghattas M et al. Vaccines (Basel) 2021;9:1490

  2. UK National Immunisation Office. Chapter 3: Immunization guidelines: information for healthcare practitioners. Available at: Accessed October 2022.

  3. Dolgin E. Nature 2021;599:359–360.

  4. Arunachalam PS et al. Nature 2021;594:253–258.

  5. Tenchov R et al. ACS Nano 2021;15:16982−17015.

  6. Ball P. Nature 2021;589:16–18.

  7. World Health Organization. Manufacturing, safety, and quality control of vaccines. Available at Accessed October 2022.

​​​​External Resources

-The Australian Immunisation Handbook

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