Vaccines are products that protect people against many diseases that can be very dangerous and even deadly. Different than most medicines that treat or cure diseases, vaccines prevent us from getting sick with the disease. Vaccines are products that produce immunity to a specific disease. A vaccine is a biological preparation that provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body’s immune system to recognize the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent that it may encounter in the future. Most vaccines are given by injection (needle), but some are given orally (by mouth) or nasally (sprayed into the nose). Vaccination is the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease. While immunization is the process by which a person or animal becomes protected against a disease. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination. Vaccines also protect future generations. Just like we are no longer at risk of smallpox, thanks to vaccines, in the future, we may be able to wipe out other diseases, like polio and measles. The terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Edward Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1798 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae Known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox. To eliminate these diseases in the future, we need high vaccination rates now.
Closeness of immune system and vaccines
The immune system of our body is made up of a specialized network of organs, cells, and tissues that all work together to help protect you against disease. When a disease-causing germ, a virus or bacteria enters our body, our immune system recognises the germ as being foreign, not belonging in the body. Then our body responds to it by making special proteins called antibodies that help destroy the germ. Most of the time, our immune system can’t act fast enough to stop the germ from making us sick but by destroying the germ, it can usually help us get well again. The germ that made us sick and how to destroy it, is a problem.That way, if we ever exposed to the same disease germ in the future, our immune system can quickly destroy it before it has a chance to make you sick and this protection is called immunity. At this junction, vaccines give us immunity to a disease without us getting sick first. They are made using killed or weakened versions of the disease-causing germ or parts of the germ called antigens. For some vaccines, genetic engineering is used to make the antigens used in the vaccine. It’s much safer to get a vaccine than to get the disease it prevents. When we get a vaccine, our immune system responds to the vaccine the same way it would to the real germ and recognises the germ in the vaccine as being foreign. In the second stage it responds to it by making antibodies to the germ in the vaccine, just as it would for the real germ. Then it destroys the germ it and in that way, if we are ever exposed to the disease-causing germ in the future, our immune system will be able to quickly destroy. The more people in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it is for a disease to spread. If a person infected with a disease comes in contact only with people who are immune (have been vaccinated), the disease will have little opportunity to spread. The type of protection created when most people are vaccinated is called “herd immunity.” It means that many of us are protecting each other, and especially the most vulnerable among us. When vaccination rates drop in a community, it’s easier for a disease to spread from person to person and cause an outbreak.
Significance of mass vaccinations
Some parents who decide not to vaccinate may believe that herd immunity will protect their children. Herd immunity does not guarantee protection for unvaccinated children. If we live in an area with low immunization rates, our child will not be protected through herd immunity. Further, herd immunity does not protect against all vaccine-preventable diseases. For example, tetanus is a serious disease caused by germs found in dirt, dust, and soil. It does not spread from person to person. Any child not vaccinated against tetanus is at risk. Even a minor cut or wound that has a tiny bit of soil in it can cause an infection. Over 10% of children and adults who get tetanus will die, even with the best intensive care. The administration of vaccines is called vaccination. Vaccination is the most effective method of preventing infectious diseases; widespread immunity due to vaccination is largely responsible for the worldwide eradication of smallpox and the restriction of diseases such as polio, measles, and tetanus from much of the world. The effectiveness of vaccination has been widely studied and verified; for example, vaccines that have proven effective include the influenza vaccine, the HPV vaccine, and the chicken pox vaccine. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that licensed vaccines are currently available for twenty-five different preventable infections.
Writer is Dr. Rajkumar Singh Professor and Head University Department of Political Science B.N.Mandal University, Madhepura Madhepura-852113. Bihar, India.