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I have a background in product design and so am familiar with with how most things are mass-produced — food, machines, etc. But I've been able to find very little information on how vaccines are mass-produced.

It looks like there are 4 types of vaccines, all of which include pieces or byproducts of the virus they're intended to counteract.

If you're producing billions of vaccines, I imagine you need a tremendous amount of the virus.

How is such a mass of virus obtained? Do they just fill up tanks with a culturing agent and a sample of the virus and wait for it to grow, like a giant petri dish? Are there big vats of Coronavirus sitting in factories somewhere?

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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is about industrial pharmaceutical practice, not biology. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Jan 23 at 23:48
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    $\begingroup$ @David I would disagree with that assessment. This seems to me to be very much about "techniques in a biological ... laboratory" just for higher scale operations. Or is this site intending to exclude all discussion of bio work beyond MRL 3? Scale-up is a massively important part of biotech R&D. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Jan 24 at 0:42
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    $\begingroup$ @David Your response assumes that experts from industry should not be interested in this site, not to mention experts from academia who interact with industry. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Jan 24 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ @David I'm currently working with algae, scaling up and investigating mass production is a big part of the area and a follow up research we must do. This will give me enough information and experience to answer this kind of questions in the context of algae, so I think this question should stay open $\endgroup$
    – Hachiloni
    Jan 26 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @David I mean that this kind of questions can be answered on this site, so closing this question will give a bad precedent. I gave an example how I could answer a question of this kind with my knowledge $\endgroup$
    – Hachiloni
    Jan 26 at 15:19
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Per Wikipedia, typically when one needs a lot of virus, it is grown in a controlled cell environment. This used to be eggs, but is moving toward cell cultures instead. So basically yes, factories full of virus (though more like in nice discrete bioreactors than big Joker-friendly vats).

Synthetic vaccines, such as the mRNA vaccines for COVID, do not need this step at all, since they do not actually use the virus, but can be done through cell-free biochemical reactions that replicate the mRNA directly.

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    $\begingroup$ I used to work in a flu vaccine manufacturing facility, and we would go through millions and millions of eggs each season, sourced from local farms. It was quite a sight to behold... $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Jan 23 at 22:20

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