Definition of a vaccine
Your body has a wonderful built-in immune system that works to protect it against pathogens that cause illnesses and infections.
Pathogens are generally biological agents that cause disease or illness. There are basically five main pathogens – bacteria, fungi, protozoa (parasites), viruses and worms.
When pathogens attack a weakened or unprepared immune system, serious illnesses can occur.
Your immune system, if maintained healthily, is an efficient system most of the time.
However, exposure to modern day pollutants and chemicals, or pre-existing health issues challenge our immune systems to go into overdrive. Most of us can cope with new infections, but many can’t.
The immune system has to learn to recognise new pathogens, the Coronavirus being one of them. So will getting vaccinated help us?
Can vaccination strengthen our immune system?
Vaccination is one way to “teach” the immune system how to recognize and destroy the enemy pathogen. In other words, just like war games, it prepares the body in case of an attack.
An important fact to highlight is that vaccinations are a form of primary prevention. They offer protection against an illness, but do not prevent it from happening.
Vaccinations can control life-threatening diseases
Through vaccination, many life-threatening diseases such as Polio, Measles, Tetanus and Whooping Cough, have been brought under control.
When the majority of the population are vaccinated, there is mass protection within a society. This is called the herd immunity which enables outbreaks to be effectively narrowed down and controlled.
How do vaccines work?
As said earlier, a healthy immune system can fight off common pathogens which they recognize.
Our immune system must be able to recognize a new invader and that it is dangerous. Getting vaccinated allows the immune system to recognize new pathogens, and it will make new antibodies to fight off antigens in the pathogens. This allows the body’s immune system to respond faster to the disease.
Antigens are found in pathogens. They stimulate an immune response in our bodies by activating lymphocytes (white blood cells) that fight the infection.
Another plus point for getting vaccinated is that the vaccine prepares immune cells to “remember” the types of pathogens that cause infections.
Vaccines expose you to a safe version of an infection or disease. They can be in the form of:
- a weakened pathogen
- a protein or sugar from the pathogen’s make-up
- a toxoid made by a pathogen
- an inactivated form of a pathogen
When a vaccine is injected into the body, its presence is supposed to build up an immune response to that particular disease, e.g., measles. You may still get infected, but your immune system has antibodies to fight off an actual infection.
How are vaccines administered?
Vaccines are usually administered via injection in two parts.
The first part is the antigen, which your immune system must learn to recognize.
The second part is the adjuvant. The role of the adjuvant is to send a danger signal to your body and its immune system. It boosts your immune system to respond strongly against the antigen. This also helps you to develop immunity against the antigen.
For the vaccine to be effective, it is important to keep to the schedule for the first part and the second part.
Conclusion: We have kept this general information on vaccines as simple as possible so it is not too confusing but informative to our readers. This is the first part of our article on vaccines.
2nd January 2021 23:00