Updated: Mar 27, 2021
So here we are, in the age of Modern Medicine, and yet many people are still skeptical about one of our greatest additions to modern medicine, vaccines!
If you want to gather up more information about vaccines from a drug expert, you have come to the right place! I am going to give you accurate information on how vaccines work and why they are vital to society.
This blog is not to give opinion, but rather, leave you with factual information about vaccines.
First, a little Immunology course!
Why do you need to know about immunology to understand vaccines? Well, its important to understand what the immune system is capable of.
What does the immune system do when it recognizes a bacteria or virus? This is also known as the immune response.
The immune system protects the body from possibly harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are substances (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can also be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys, or tries to destroy, substances that contain antigens.
Your body's cells have proteins that are antigens. These include a group of antigens called HLA antigens. Your immune system learns to see these antigens as normal and usually does not react against them.
There are three types of immunity:
Innate, or nonspecific, immunity is the defense system with which you were born. It protects you against all antigens. Innate immunity involves barriers that keep harmful materials from entering your body. These barriers form the first line of defense in the immune response. Examples of innate immunity include:
Enzymes in tears and skin oils
Mucus, which traps bacteria and small particles
Innate immunity also comes in a protein chemical form, called innate humoral immunity. Examples include the body's complement system and substances called interferon and interleukin-1 (which causes fever).
If an antigen gets past these barriers, it is attacked and destroyed by other parts of the immune system.
Acquired immunity is immunity that develops with exposure to various antigens. Your immune system builds a defense against that specific antigen.
Passive immunity is due to antibodies that are produced in a body other than your own. Infants have passive immunity because they are born with antibodies that are transferred through the placenta from their mother. These antibodies disappear between ages 6 and 12 months.
Passive immunization may also be due to injection of antiserum, which contains antibodies that are formed by another person or animal. It provides immediate protection against an antigen, but does not provide long-lasting protection. Immune serum globulin (given for hepatitis exposure) and tetanus antitoxin are examples of passive immunization.
The immune system includes certain types of white blood cells. It also includes chemicals and proteins in the blood, such as antibodies, complement proteins, and interferon. Some of these directly attack foreign substances in the body, and others work together to help the immune system cells.
Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell. There are B and T type lymphocytes.
B lymphocytes become cells that produce antibodies. Antibodies attach to a specific antigen and make it easier for the immune cells to destroy the antigen.
T lymphocytes attack antigens directly and help control the immune response. They also release chemicals, known as cytokines, which control the entire immune response.
As lymphocytes develop, they normally learn to tell the difference between your own body tissues and substances that are not normally found in your body. Once B cells and T cells are formed, a few of those cells will multiply and provide "memory" for your immune system. This allows your immune system to respond faster and more efficiently the next time you are exposed to the same antigen. In many cases, it will prevent you from getting sick or have a much milder case, than if your immune system had not seen the antigen before.
Ok- so now you have a better understanding of what your body does in response to a foreign body like a virus or bacteria.
So- what does a vaccine actually do?
Vaccination (immunization) is a way to trigger the immune response. Small doses of an antigen, such as dead or weakened live viruses, are given to activate immune system "memory" (activated B cells and sensitized T cells). Memory allows your body to react quickly and efficiently to future exposures.
This is an amazing addition to modern medicine! There are vaccines that can prevent cancers and deadly diseases (like the influenza).
What about risks and side effects of getting a vaccine?
Vaccine Side Effects and Risk
Like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. The most common side effects are mild.
On the other hand, many vaccine-preventable disease symptoms can be serious, or even deadly.
The side effects from vaccines are almost always minor (such as redness and swelling where the shot was given) and go away within a few days.
If your child experiences a reaction at the injection site, use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness, and swelling.
Serious side effects after vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare and doctors and clinic staff are trained to deal with them. Pay extra attention to your child for a few days after vaccination. If you see something that concerns you, call your child’s doctor
For more information about the vaccine testing approval process click here
What about all the bad stuff vaccines cause?
There are current studies that were done to assess if the childhood vaccine schedule is "too much for the immune system," the fear that vaccines cause autism, effects on neuropsychological outcomes, seizures and metabolism. Please click here to read about the studies and outcomes, especially if you are skeptical about vaccinating your child.
If you don't want to take the time to read about the studies, I can go ahead and tell you, they concluded vaccines are still safe and effective.
For instance, the study that was conducted for autism looked at 1.25 million children....... that is a study with lots of power (biostatistically speaking). By the way, there are no longer preservatives in childhood vaccines... yet we still see autism.
If you are not sure how to tell if a study has validity or not, I suggest you read about study designs and biostatistics and get a better understanding of what types of studies and statistics lead to powerful, valid results. Yes, that is right, there is much more to this evidence-based medicine thing than I can explain here.
Click here for a very brief overview of study design and biostatistics.
In closing, I leave you with these facts about vaccines from Unicef....
Facts about Vaccines:
Immunization is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions to date, averting an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year. As a direct result of immunization, the world is closer than ever to eradicating polio, with only three remaining polio endemic countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan. Children under 5 deaths from measles, a major child killer, declined by 85 per cent worldwide and by 89 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa between 2000 and 2016. And as of March 2018, all but 14 countries have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus, a disease with a fatality rate of 70 to 100 per cent among newborns. The percentage of children receiving the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP) is often used as an indicator of how well countries are providing routine immunization services. In 2017, global coverage rates for the third dose of the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine (DTP3) reached 85 per cent, up from 72 per cent in 2000 and 21 percent in 1980. Still, progress has stalled over the current decade, and 71 countries have yet to achieve the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) target of 90 per cent or greater coverage of DTP3. 19.9 million children under 1 year of age worldwide did not receive the three recommended doses of DTP in 2017, and 20.8 million children in the same age group had failed to receive a single dose of measles-containing vaccine.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog, your time is valuable and important.
References: cdc.gov medlineplus.gov unicef.org