One of the hot questions of the moment is, “how do vaccines work?” Let’s look at exactly what vaccines are, why they work, and how they save lives.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a type of medical treatment that’s designed to prevent diseases, and it does this by teaching the body’s immune system to fight off a virus or bacteria it hasn’t come into contact with before. Of course, that’s a simple explanation of what vaccines are and how they work! They’re complex pieces of scientific engineering that can take many years to develop and test.
Edward Jenner invented the first vaccine, made from pustules from cowpox lesions, and administered it to an 8-year-old boy in 1796. When the boy was exposed to smallpox, he did not develop the infection. These findings quickly made the practice widespread, and his method underwent medical and technological changes over the next 200 years. The story of vaccines did not begin with Edward Jenner’s vaccine however, evidence exists that the Chinese employed similar practices as early as 1000 CE!
Today, we have vaccines for some of the most dangerous and deadly diseases. Depending on your stage of life, location, and travel plans, you may need different vaccines for certain illnesses.
How They Work
When a virus or bacteria invades your body causing disease, your immune response is triggered, identifying, and destroying the infectious agents. Part of this process is where your white blood cells create proteins known as antibodies. These antibodies track down the bacteria or virus and mark it to be destroyed. Once the bacteria or virus is dealt with and you recover, your body produces ‘memory cells’, meaning if you encounter the same virus or bacteria again, your body’s immune response is much faster and more targeted.
Most vaccines contain a harmless form of a weakened form of bacteria or virus that is enough to trigger the body’s natural immune response, without causing a full-blown illness. Once the vaccine has been administered, and your immune system has responded, you will have the antibodies and memory cells specific to that disease. So, if you do reencounter the virus or bacteria, your body will remember it, and deal with it before even you notice it’s there!
Why They Save Lives
The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that vaccines prevent 4-5 million deaths per year. By receiving a vaccine, you gain protection from diseases that can make you seriously ill or even prove fatal. Receiving a vaccine doesn’t just protect you, it protects others as well! You may have heard the buzz words, “herd immunity” in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, but what exactly does it mean? Essentially, it’s the indirect protection from infectious diseases that comes when enough people have immunity to them, often through vaccinations.
For those who can’t be vaccinated, herd immunity is the only thing that can protect them from the virus or bacteria. When enough people are immune, the disease can’t spread in the community since the lines of transmission are cut off. So by getting vaccinated, you’re helping to prevent potentially deadly diseases from spreading to those who cannot have vaccines.
As we are currently living during a global pandemic, we must rely on vaccines to protect our most vulnerable population: seniors. Older adults are more likely to fall sick from COVID-19, meaning they might need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, otherwise their sickness may end in death.
Our Stance on Vaccines
The work on vaccines, including the current Covid-19 vaccines, have been remarkable, and we owe a great deal to the experts who have made it possible. We strongly support the science behind vaccines and encourage everyone to voluntarily get vaccinated for Covid-19 as soon as possible. Vaccinations are a simple, safe, and effective way of protecting people against harmful diseases, and is one of the best tools we have to ensure a safer, healthier world.
Click here if you’d like more information on Covid-19 Vaccines or are looking to get vaccinated.