Vaccines are typically ‘killed’ or ‘dead’ pathogens that are administered into the body to boost our immune system. Vaccine actually makes the body to think that it is being invaded by germs and stimulate the defense system to produce antibodies, which in turn fight against the invaders.
How it Works:
Basically antibodies are automatically produced when a person is infected or invaded with a micro organism. It actually triggers the immune system to fight with the antigen and cures it. So in the incidence of reappearance of that infection, the body will be ready to fight again. But sometimes when this process does not take place in our body it may lead to death or any kind of disability. So, when a person is vaccinated for a disease, the immune system is trained to fight off that particular disease. Vaccination will not actually cause a disease but it aids in boosting our immune system to fight against the disease by producing antibodies. To enhance the ability of vaccine a substance called adjuvant is formulated. This helps in generating long-lasting immune system.
Types of Vaccine:
The vaccines are classified as follows:
- Live, attenuated vaccines – Disease causing actual virus that are weakened
- Inactivated vaccines – killed or inactivated pathogens that are whole and intact.
- Subunit vaccines - These are further categorized as
- Toxoid vaccines – Chemically altered toxins
- Conjugate vaccines – carrier proteins, chemically attached with polysaccharide antigens
- Recombinant vector vaccines – Gene from a pathogen.
Why vaccination is necessary:
The primary reason is to protect ourselves from the diseases that are life-threatening. It prevents spreading of diseases from one person to other and hence benefits the society in which we live. Moreover, it is economical to vaccinate than to actually treat the disease.
Who and when one needs vaccination:
Vaccination is for everyone from infants to children and from teens to adults. It is important for us know when and which vaccines are to be administered. Some of the vaccines are administered only once. The rest requires one or more ‘booster’ doses to maintain the protection against the diseases.
The side effects of the shots are usually mild like swelling, minor pain, fatigue, and headache and will automatically get cured. Severe problems are always rare.
Vaccines for infants and child:
As this is a crucial stage, they are highly vulnerable to life - threatening diseases. So information about recommended vaccines is important to save them from diseases. There are some vaccines which are given as more than one dose for lasting protection. Some of the vaccines suggested by pediatricians are BCG, Hep A and B, IPV, DTaP / TdaP (depending upon the age of child), Hib, RV, PCV, MMR, Typhoid, Varicella and Flu.
Vaccines for teens and pre-teens:
Even teens require immunization. Some of the recommended vaccines for teens are TdaP, Meningococcal, Human Papillomavirus vaccine, Flu.
Vaccines for adults and elders:
There is no age limit as far as vaccinations are
concerned. Instead you are actually protecting your life against diseases.
Vaccines recommended for adults are Human papilomavirus, Pneumcoccal, Hep A
& B, Flu, MMR, TdaP / Td, Shingles and Hib.
Vaccines for pregnant mothers:
Pregnant women need vaccines to protect their unborn child from diseases. It is better for the to-be mothers to discuss with their doctors about the vaccinations that are required for them during and after pregnancy. Vaccines for Hepatitis B, Influenza and TDaP are usually administered to pregnant mothers.
Storage and Handling:
Vaccines should be properly stored immediately after it is manufactured till the time it is administered. When it is not stored appropriately, the effectiveness of medicines gets reduced. Storage conditions depend on the types of vaccines, for example, live vaccines may need freezing temperatures as they may deteriorate when exposed to normal temperatures. Some vaccines just need to be kept in refrigerator. So it is always better to follow the instructions properly to avoid negative effect or damage.
Vaccines are not available for all diseases or infections. For instance, vaccination is not available for AIDS and scientists all around the world are working to develop it. Usually, it takes around 10 - 15 years to develop a successful vaccine and involves public - private combination and huge cost. In spite of all these constraints, due to the introduction of vaccination programs, mortality rate among children has drastically come down. In fact, some of the diseases like polio and small pox have been almost eradicated.