Before we talk about vaccines. There are some basics to cover in this topic.
Firstly, the immune system. The immune system is an organizational system in our body that helps us to fight organisms and diseases. The immune system is complex and is made up of bone marrow, white blood cells (leucocytes), lymphocytes, phagocytes and more.
Certain cells are specialized to do certain jobs that help with killing or destroying any abnormal cell/organism within your body.
Secondly, immunity. Immunity is a state of having protection and tolerance towards organisms. There are two types of immunity: active immunity and passive immunity.
Active immunity is where your body is making the relevant cells to kill the organism on its own and developing long-term tolerance (or immunity) against the organism. Long-term immunity refers to your body creating memory cells that store information on how to effectively and efficiently kill a specific organism.
For example, if you got infected with organism X once in your life, the next time you are infected with organism X, your body knows how to respond and will kill the organism faster and better than it did the last time.
Passive immunity is where your body is receiving help from other people to fight off organisms. This means that ready-made antibodies (important cells that kill organisms) from someone else is transferred to your body.
This is usually in forms of transfusion or breast-feeding (where the mother’s antibodies are transferred to the newborn; as newborns do not have a sufficient immune system yet to fight on their own).
- What are vaccines, vaccinations and immunization?
Vaccines are products that aid in developing immunity from a disease, usually in the form of needle injections.
Vaccinations are an injection of less harmful, weakened or killed organism that gradually allows your body to develop immunity against the harmful organism.
Immunization is the process of protecting someone from disease, in the form of vaccines and vaccinations.
- What are in vaccinations?
Vaccines and vaccination, usually known to be interchangeable, contain a less harmful (or in some cases: killed) organism that has been known to cause disease. For example, Measles. Measles is a highly infectious and lethal disease caused by the measles virus. Measles vaccinations contain the measles virus but at a safe virulence (potency of the organism) and at a safe dosage. In a vaccination, the measles virus will be depleted of its dangerous components and become a less dangerous virus. When this is injected into the body, your immune system will work to gradually destroy the virus.
Think of it in this sense. You have two hands. And at one point, 10 basketballs are being thrown at you. You cannot catch them all at once. But if 1 basketball is thrown at you, one at a time, until you have 10, then you have a better chance of catching all 10 basketballs.
Vaccinations work in the same way. By injecting the safe dosage of the virus into the body gradually through time, your body can slowly adapt to killing the virus. This is much more efficient than having the body try to kill it all at once and be overwhelmed.
- How does this help me?
Vaccinations help many people: the individual being vaccinated, the people around this individual and also the community. Because with vaccinations, you are protecting yourself from preventable and dangerous diseases such as diphtheria, measles, mumps, smallpox, polio and more.
Not only are you protecting yourself and the ones around you that you love. But you are also protected the community.
There is such a thing called herd immunity. Herd immunity is a resistance of the spread of a certain contagious disease, within a generalized population, if enough people are immune to the disease. To make it simple.
Imagine 100 people being locked in a small room. And of these 100 people, 99 of them are vaccinated against measles. However, one person is not and they are carrying the measles virus. In this case, the chance of measles to be spread to the other 99 people are very low.
But in a case where only 50 people are vaccinated and one person is carrying the measles virus. 50 other people are not vaccinated. Therefore, the chances of the measles spread are higher than the previous situation. Instead of one person affected, you have 50 people affected now.
This is the concept of herd immunity. With the more people vaccinated and protected from these diseases, the less chance of this disease to spread and possible cause an epidemic.
Article is written by:
Fatin Najwa binti Daud, is a medical student studying at IMU Malaysia. She is a freelance writer of this blog at Zaahara. Interests include music, art, sports and travel.
-Photos are taken from google images
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