How do vaccines work? | SGK
Vaccines are one of the most significant scientific advancements of all time. They have saved countless lives and reduced the incidence of many deadly diseases. However, despite their success, there is still a lot of confusion about how vaccines work. In this article, we will discuss how vaccines work, how they are made, and why they are so important for public health.
What are vaccines?
A vaccine is a substance that stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize and fight specific infections. Vaccines can be made from dead or weakened viruses, bacteria, or parts of these organisms that trigger an immune response. When a person receives a vaccine, their immune system responds by producing antibodies that recognize the disease-causing organism. If the person is later exposed to the same organism, their immune system is better prepared to fight off the infection.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines work by mimicking the natural infection process. When a person is exposed to a virus or bacterium, their immune system produces antibodies to fight off the infection. The next time the person is exposed to the same virus or bacterium, their immune system recognizes it and produces a rapid response, which can prevent the person from becoming sick.
Vaccines introduce a harmless form of the virus or bacterium into the body. This may be a dead or weakened version of the virus, or it may be a part of the virus, such as a protein or sugar. The immune system recognizes the virus or bacterium as a foreign invader and produces an immune response, just as it would if the person had been infected naturally. The immune response creates antibodies that can recognize and fight the virus or bacterium in the future.
Types of vaccines
There are several different types of vaccines, each designed to stimulate a specific type of immune response.
Inactivated vaccines — These vaccines contain dead viruses or bacteria that cannot cause disease. The immune system recognizes the dead organism as foreign and produces an immune response. Examples of inactivated vaccines include the polio vaccine and the hepatitis A vaccine.
Live attenuated vaccines — These vaccines contain a weakened form of the virus or bacterium that has been modified in the laboratory so that it cannot cause disease. Examples of live attenuated vaccines include the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the chickenpox vaccine.
Subunit, recombinant, and conjugate vaccines — These vaccines contain only a specific part of the virus or bacterium, such as a protein or sugar. The immune system recognizes this part of the organism as foreign and produces an immune response. Examples of these types of vaccines include the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine.
mRNA vaccines — These vaccines are a new type of vaccine that contain genetic material (mRNA) from the virus that causes the disease. The mRNA instructs cells in the body to produce a protein from the virus. The immune system recognizes the protein as foreign and produces an immune response. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are examples of mRNA vaccines.
How are vaccines made?
Vaccine development is a long and complex process that can take years or even decades. The process begins with laboratory studies to identify the virus or bacterium that causes the disease. Once the virus or bacterium is identified, scientists can work to develop a vaccine.
Why are vaccines important?
Vaccines are important for several reasons. They can prevent serious illnesses and even death from infectious diseases. They can also prevent the spread of diseases within communities, which is known as herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, making it difficult for the disease to spread.
Vaccines are especially important for people who cannot be vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems. When a large percentage of the population is vaccinated, it provides a protective barrier that can prevent the disease from reaching those who are vulnerable.
Vaccines are an essential part of public health. They have saved countless lives and prevented the spread of many deadly diseases. Understanding how vaccines work can help people make informed decisions about their health and the health of their communities. Vaccines are a safe and effective way to prevent serious illnesses and should be considered an important part of everyone’s healthcare regimen.
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