What are vaccines?
Medically, these are biological preparations injected into the body to help the immune system defend itself against certain deadly germs.
With advancement in medical science, most diseases which were earlier related to certain death, have today become curable. Vaccines are preventive strategies that behave like magical weapons and help people in fighting all these fatal microbes effectively.
As a toddler, even you have received vaccination on a timely basis. Can you see BCG imprint on your arm? That’s a vaccine shot right there.
Let’s go back to how the first vaccines came into existence.
In the early 19th and 20th century, scientists discovered that if specific viruses, either in the dead or attenuated form, could be introduced into the body, the human body would build antibodies. These antibodies would thereafter help protect the person from the very same illness and therefore, strengthen his/her immunity.
The first vaccines developed by researchers were to help cure small pox and rabies.
As years rolled past, scientists and medical practitioners came up with more and more vaccines to prevent humans from deadly diseases and ensure a healthy life.
Today, as parents, you take your newborn to the doctor and get him/her a series of shots and boosters just like your parents got for you.
The benefits of vaccines are limitless. They help in ensuring that our children lead healthier, longer lives. Once their immune systems are familiar with a particular germ, they become empowered to build antibody defence against it. Vaccination is thus the easiest and the safest way to build your child’s immunity.
It is much cheaper to prevent a disease than to fight it altogether.
Now, how do vaccines exactly work?
The concept is simple. A virus is introduced into the body so that your body can stimulate an antibody memory response without producing an actual illness.
A vaccine must contain at least 1 antigen from the bacteria or the virus so as to get a response.
There are several ways of introducing antigens into the bodies.
Attenuated live viruses are weakened forms of viruses that do not cause illness. However, they will provoke a stimulus or a response from the body. Influenza, chickenpox, measles and mumps are few of the examples.
The other kind is the inactive virus which is basically dead. Although the virus is dead, your body will still create antibodies in response to its introduction. These types of viruses are, however, not quite as effective in tackling deadly diseases as live viruses.
Another kind is the subunit virus. The vaccines made from these don’t include the entire microbe but only the specific antigens that stimulate a person’s immune system.
The final kind is toxoid virus which contain toxins of germs in a harmless form. These vaccines help fight virus and bacteria that secrete harmful toxins and chemicals. A toxoid vaccine shot will safeguard your child against germs which secrete harmful toxins.
Universal vaccination may well be the greatest success story in medical history.
Over the years, the process of vaccination has had its fair share of critics. Back in the day, people were far from agreeable to the idea of a cowpox virus entering their system.
The most recent controversy revolving around vaccines was the false and non-factual connection of MMR vaccine to autism. MMR helps the body fight measles, mumps and rubella. There were some papers published that showed the particular vaccine was causing autism in children. But all these ‘papers’ and ‘reports’ turned out to be hogwash and were duly retracted.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to be properly informed about the facts and ignore all these myths regarding vaccines, and keep abreast of the vaccination schedule.