Human bodies are equipped with their own kind of immune system to counteract the attack of different infectious viruses, bacteria, and fungi. However, sometimes this immunity system is not strong enough to face certain attacks especially when the attack from external sources is more severe. This is truer in cases of young children, patients and old people who have low immunity. That is why; medical science has developed vaccines to protect your body from certain diseases that can make you disable, sick or even can kill you.
Boosting Defence System
Vaccines work by boosting the defense system of your body. They protect your body from infection without letting you suffer any symptoms related to that particular disease. For different reasons, the vaccines are sometimes also termed as shots, needles or immunizations. During the process, a bacteria or virus is deliberately injected into your body so that your immune system prepares antibodies to fight against such infections in the future. This process is best carried out by administering weakened or killed bacteria or virus into your body so that it does not cause any harm to your body.
Babies and Passive Immunity
Nature has its own way of immunizing newborns from specific diseases. The infants are naturally protected from several diseases such as rubella, mumps, and measles as the antibodies required to counteract these diseases are already passed on to them through the placenta of the mother. Immunity developed in this way against a particular disease is known as passive immunity. However, this type of immunity does not last more than few months or a year and hence the babies are administered the MMR jab within one year.
Diseases with No Vaccine Protection
The immune system of the human body comprises two units- cell-mediated immunity and antibody-mediated immunity. The major development in the field of vaccination has been made in the last five decades. Most of these vaccination processes protect your body by stimulating the potent antibody response within the body. But there are several pathogens that are present inside the body cells and it is not always possible for the antibodies to reach these pathogens. In such cases, cell-mediated immunity is required that offer better protection. Diseases that are caused due to such hiding pathogens include HIV, TB, and malaria. Since no effective vaccine has yet been developed to prevent these diseases millions of people globally succumb to each year to either of these diseases.
What is the Ideal Vaccine?
Ideally, a vaccine should have following features:
- It should be absolutely safe causing no side-effects
- It must be easily available and can be manufactured cheaply
- It should be stable for transport or storage
- It should be easily administered
- It is available for the infants alongside several other childhood vaccines
- It should offer long-term protection against the disease
Making of Vaccines
It would be interesting to know how the vaccines that offer protection from different diseases are prepared. Here is a step-by-step description:
- The first step in the preparation of a vaccine is making of an organism or pathogen that causes the disease
- Usually, this organism is a bacterium or a virus
- These are mass-produced in a laboratory by infecting the cells that are grown in the tissue culture
- It is very important to alter the pathogen so that it does not cause the disease.
- The alteration process can be carried out either by attenuating or weakening the pathogen by making it grow repeatedly so that a strain that is produced is less dangerous
- Other alteration methods include using the only part of the pathogen that triggers off immune response or making use of the toxin that creates this pathogen and inactivating it
Note: Some of the vaccines that are made from alteration processes include MMR vaccines (weakening the strain), Hib vaccine (using the immune response generating part of the pathogen), and Tetanus vaccine (inactivating the toxic part of a pathogen).
- After alteration, the pathogen is then combined with different ingredients such as preservatives and stabilizers for producing a dose of vaccine.
How Does Vaccination Works?
Vaccines work in the following way:
- Vaccines carry a small amount of the germ that causes disease and usually, this germ is dead or weak.
- Hence, such germs cannot make you sick. There are certain vaccines that do not contain any germ at all.
- Presence of this little bit of germ in the vaccine stimulates your immune system to build up antibodies so that when similar kind of germ attacks your body, the antibodies can fight against them and protect you.
- Your body prepares antibodies in two conditions: when you get the disease or through a vaccine. The best way is to get vaccinated and stay protected without having to go through the painful experience of the disease.
- Antibodies last long and also have a memory and hence they remember when and how to fight when the germs attack.
- In some cases, your body may need a booster dose to remind it about how to ward off those disease-causing germs.
- Some vaccines offer protection against only one disease whereas some vaccines offer combined protection against two to three diseases such as the MMR vaccine that offers protection against Mumps, Measles, and Rubella.
Note: Although most of the vaccines are administered by the needles, health experts are now trying to come up with new ways of administering the vaccines such as by mouth or using nose spray.
How Long the Effect of Vaccination Does Lasts?
There are several vaccines that offer protection against a particular disease for life. But the effect of the vaccine also depends upon the person to whom it is given. Similarly, how long the effect will last depend upon the type of disease, the effectiveness of the vaccine and also the person vaccinated. There are certain vaccines that provide protection of high levels such as the MMR vaccine that offers 90 percent protection. On the other hand, some vaccines such as the typhoid vaccine offer only 70 percent protections and are effective only for three years.
What are the Side Effects of Vaccination?
Just as with all the type of medical treatments, vaccines to come with some amount of side effects and possible risks. However, these reactions or allergies are very rare and are minimal as compared to the condition caused if you have to suffer from the disease itself. Thus, the advantages of vaccination are much more than the side effects.
Generally, all the vaccines are tested for safety before being approved for use and also the medical fraternity responsible for introducing such vaccines keep a strict watch on the quality and authenticity of these vaccines. The testing is done also for combined administration and if it can cause any side effects when used in conjunction with other vaccines.
The side effects of vaccines are mild and usually go away in few days. These side effects vary depending upon the type of vaccine and include:
- Tenderness, redness, pain or swelling at the site of injection
- Mild rash
- Fainting or dizziness
- Mild rash
In some cases, there can be certain unusual side effects such as weakness, high fever or changes in behavior. Especially in infants and small children serious allergic reactions such as hives, breathing difficulty, wheezing, hoarseness, fast heartbeat or paleness can be observed. Nevertheless, this is very rare and requires immediate medical attention.
Note: In rare cases, vaccination leads to severe side effects and such consequences should be immediately reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System so that appropriate actions can be taken.
Vaccination Schedule for Children
Vaccination Schedule for Adolescents
Vaccination Schedule for Adults
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