Technicians Making the COVID-19 Vaccination Happen - Part 1

With the outbreak of a global pandemic we have seen that to deal with extraordinary times we need extraordinary responses. The UK is participating in the largest vaccination programme ever seen, and technicians from across manufacturing, health science, logistics, healthcare and education are making it happen.

In our series to commemorate World Immunisation Week (24th – 30th April 2021) we’ve highlighted a few of the many technician roles key to the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

Identifying the virus that causes the disease

 

Research technicians work to sequence the virus so that we understand how it works and how it can be treated. Viruses like the flu or the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, often have the ability to mutate. To respond to this, virus sequencing must be carried out regularly to ensure that effective treatments are created against all mutations of the virus.

“It has been very important to me to feel like I can help to make a difference during these challenging times.”

Adam at Wellcome Sanger

Designing the vaccine 

Vaccines can be designed in a variety of ways. Once research teams have designed a vaccine they believe to be effective, they need to know how it can be administered and produced. After this the vaccine goes through a series of checks, tests and trials before it is eventually tested on human volunteers in clinical trials.

Research technicians, like Helen, are key to the success of clinical trials. She is responsible for organising and analysing the samples from clinical trial volunteers.

Credit: David Levene/ the Guardian 

One of my main tasks is checking that we have enough laboratory chemicals for our experiments. Because this is the largest trial we have ever done we have been going through our consumables much faster than usual. Many of the companies that we order from have been working with reduced staff so things can take a little longer to arrive.

Helen, Clinical Trials Research Technician

If the trials are successful, the vaccine is approved and licensed, before being manufactured at scale so it can be received by all that need it.

 

 

How can I become a research technician?

There are many pathways to becoming a research technician.

If you’re coming up to 16 you could study A-levels, applied general qualifications, a Healthcare Science T-level or do an apprenticeship.

You could then gain more of the skills needed in the workplace with a higher apprenticeship, higher level qualification or experience in the workplace. Check out the stories of technicians below for inspiration:

 

Can you tell me more about how vaccines are developed?

To learn more about how vaccines are developed, check out this video by Nature magazine:

 

#techniciansmakeithappen

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