What is a vaccine
A vaccine is a preparation that causes your body to produce antibodies which will make you immune to a disease.
Antibodies? Immune? Maybe you don’t know what these words mean. Well, it’s easy. An antibody is a defensive substance created by the body when it comes across cells from a different body, and to be immune means to be free of something, to succeed in not letting it affect you.
2- Creation of antibodies
|3- Immunised body
To be vaccinated means “to take precautions” against a disease; in other words, to prepare our body so that it can stand up to infectious disease and overcome the viruses and bacteria that cause it.
Vaccines are made from germs that can cause the disease, and their job is to get our body’s natural defences working to protect us against the infection.
It’s as if you were training your body to always be on the alert against a particular disease.
Why do we have to be vaccinated?
Young babies and small children are more delicate than grown-ups and can fall ill more easily. That’s why they need to be vaccinated. Generally, by the time they are two years old, they’ve already been vaccinated against a number of diseases.
Being vaccinated has individual and social benefits, in other words it’s good for you, and it’s also good for everyone else around you and near you.
Origin of vaccines
|On 14th May 1796, an English doctor called Edward Jenner was the first to inoculate (which means to introduce into the body by means of a syringe) a vaccine against smallpox. The patient was an eight-year-old boy called James Phipps.
The doctor took some infectious fluid from the wound of a milkmaid who had caught cowpox when milking a cow.
|Two weeks later, he again inoculated James with some pus he had taken from a smallpox patient. The boy never showed any signs of smallpox infection, and this proved that inoculating the germ — or, in other words, vaccinating — provokes a defence reaction by the body.
Jenner did not have an easy time: many doctors thought his idea was no good, but they were later silenced by his results.
|Of course, vaccines have changed over the years. Their side-effects have been mitigated and their doses reduced, but the basic idea behind them has not changed a bit.
Jenner vaccinated the poor people in his town, Berkeley, and the surrounding district, free of charge. Many of those he vaccinated had been staunch opponents of vaccination, but the local vicar advised everyone to go and see the doctor because he was fed up with holding funerals for people who, if only they’d been vaccinated, would not have died of smallpox.
Nowadays, this vaccine is regarded as just another discovery, but you should know that in those days, some 15,000 people a year were dying of smallpox in France; in Germany over 70,000 people were affected, and in Russia, smallpox killed 2 million people in just one year.
Diseases we need to be vaccinated against
The most important children’s diseases that can be avoided through vaccination are:
Another vaccine that is also used frequently for elderly people or people with respiratory problems, is the flu vaccine.
Other vaccines are necessary when you’re travelling to countries affected by endemic diseases that are not prevalent in Europe.
When you’re going to be vaccinated
|When you’re going to be vaccinated, think of it as something that will prevent you from getting ill. Yes, the needle-jab might hurt a bit, but it’s only a second of pain, for a lifetime of health.
Did you know that there are lots of children in the world who cannot be vaccinated?
Maybe you cut yourself one day and were told you had to have an anti-tet jab. Don’t worry, there’s no need to be scared!!
|Vaccination began over a century ago, and in many countries it has been almost obligatory for 60 years.
Some vaccines have side-effects.
Vaccines are safe, but sometimes they can be a bit painful at the jab site, or cause a mild fever or an allergic reaction.
However, these side-effects are always better than having the actual disease.
Some people think that vaccines are not necessary. They’re wrong. It’s very difficult for someone never to come into contact with any disease and, if they haven’t been vaccinated, they can get infected.
How many types of vaccine are there
Research has made it possible to create combined vaccines, meaning that a single vaccine will vaccinate you against several different diseases.
The advantage is that only one jab is needed.
|Depending on the age of the person to be vaccinated and on the type of vaccine, one or more doses may have to be administered, more or less consecutively. However, it seems that, increasingly, a single dose is sufficient.
You have to keep a vaccination calendar. You’re bound to have yours at home.
In 1918, a flu epidemic caused the death of over 50 million people worldwide.
|At present, lots of scientists are trying to find a vaccine against diseases such as aids and malaria, which affect millions of people throughout the world and are endemic in many places in Africa.