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Vaccination and Immunisation

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Principles of Prevention

MVSAT Dec 2023

From childhood, you have heard that prevention is better than cure. It is a fact to follow in real life. In the world of medicine that relates to science and biology, prevention is always better. The reason is that sometimes when we fail to prevent any disease by not preparing in advance, the cure may be unavailable or hard to get. Therefore, it is always wise to avoid certain conditions by planning. Prevention helps when you are in close contact with a person suffering from an infectious or contagious disease. In this section, we will talk about Immunization and vaccination as ways to prevent infections. 

Diseases are conditions that impair the smooth and efficient working of our body and mind. When we go out for treatment in case of an infection, it is possible that we face some obstacles.  The difficulty can be a disease that has completely damaged the body functions beyond recovery, or a person suffering from an ailment is confined to bed as there is no cure or a person suffering from infection is likely to spread the sickness to others as well. In such situations, it is necessary to have some preventive measures in place.

Vaccines and immunization are considered as one of the most successful ways of prevention when it comes to taking care of one’s body. These are biologically prepared tools that reduce the risk of human beings contracting diseases, some of which can be life-threatening. Vaccines are usually administered through injections. They make us immune by working with the natural defenses present in our bodies. 

Another aim of more and more vaccines being administered is to prevent and control outbreaks of infectious diseases. Hence, it is believed that immunization is a crucial key component of primary health care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunization and vaccines help prevent around 2-3 million deaths each year from severe diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, measles, and influenza. 

Types of Immunization 

Immunization is a process through which a person who is immunized develops resistance to particular diseases. This resistance is developed by administering a vaccine. A vaccine is a dose of specialized medication that stimulates the immune system of a person and helps beat certain diseases. The process of immunization has proved advantageous in preventing many infectious diseases. It has also contributed to a decrease in the mortality rate. Immunization is done through vaccines. Today, vaccines are available against smallpox, measles, tetanus, polio, etc.

Immunization and vaccines are administered to adults and infants through public health programs. In the case of infants, the pediatrician administers regular vaccinations that are set in a schedule. 

Types of Vaccines 

There are different types of vaccines. Each type serves a definite purpose. The design of each vaccine is that it teaches your immune system how to fight certain kinds of germs and the dangerous diseases they cause. Vaccines are prepared after lots of research in the laboratory. When scientists create a vaccine, they consider the following aspects:

  1. How does the immune system respond to the germ?

  2. Who requires vaccination against the germ?

  3. The best technology to create the vaccine

Depending on these factors, a scientist decides the type of vaccine they need to develop. There are four main types of vaccines-

  1. Live - Attenuated Vaccine – they use a weakened form of the germ that causes disease. These vaccines are similar to the natural infection that they prevent. They create a secure and long-lasting immune response. 1 or 2 doses of live vaccines are enough to give lifetime protection against a germ and the disease they cause. Examples are smallpox, chickenpox, yellow fever, rubella, and measles.

  2. Inactivated vaccines use the killed or dead version of the germ that causes a disease. Inactivated vaccines typically do not provide immunity or protection as strong as live vaccines. One may need several doses or boosters shots over time so that the resistance stays against the diseases. Examples are Hepatitis A, Flu, Polio, and Rabies.

  3. Polysaccharide, subunit and conjugate vaccines use specific parts of the germ like its protein, sugar, or capsid (casing or covering around the germ). As these vaccines use particular pieces of the germ, they give a powerful immune response that targets vital parts of the virus. One may need booster shots to keep the immunity steady. Examples are Hepatitis B, HPV, Whooping cough, Pneumococcal disease, and Shingles.

  4. Toxoid vaccine uses a toxin or harmful product made by the germ that causes a disease. These vaccines create immunity against those parts of the germ that cause disease instead of the whole germ itself. It means that the protection or immune response is targeted at the toxin rather than the germ. One may need booster shots to get ongoing protection against diseases. Examples are Diphtheria and Tetanus.

Types of Ingredients in Vaccines

Vaccines differ depending upon the ingredients that are combined to prepare them. Each of the ingredients used to prepare a vaccine serves a different and specific purpose:

  • Provide protection or immunity to the body

  • Keep the vaccine safe, effective, and long-lasting

  • Providing material for the production of the vaccine and more

The various types of ingredients used to produce vaccines include:

  • Preservatives to prevent contamination

  • Adjuvants to help boost our bodies’ response to the vaccine

  • Stabilizers that help keep the vaccines effective post their manufacture

  • Residual cell culture materials that help grow enough of the bacteria or virus needed to make the vaccine

  • Residual inactivating ingredients to help kill inactivated toxins or kill viruses during the manufacturing process.

Infant Immunizations

Strong immunity or protection is a way to prevent diseases. This statement is especially applicable to newborns or small babies, who are yet to get the benefits of a grown-up’s immunity and preventive coping mechanisms against infections. When a baby is born, his or her immune system is not fully developed. It can put a child at a higher risk for infections.  Administering vaccines and supplying immunization reduces the risk of infection by working with the natural defense to help develop protection, resistance, and immunity to diseases.

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FAQs on Vaccination and Immunisation

1. Why is Immunization Necessary?

Immunization is an effective and simple way to protect the self from diseases. Vaccination works by starting or triggering the immune system to fight certain conditions. If a vaccinated person comes in contact with any infectious diseases, the immune system can respond adequately.  This kind of protection through vaccination or immunization prevents the disease from acquiring a severe state. Immunization protects adults and infants alike. Talking to a doctor about immunization is very helpful. Vaccination records help children when they enroll in schools.  It means that immunization is essential for one and all in the community.

2. How Does Immunization Help Infants?

Vaccines help in preventing diseases. The diseases that vaccines prevent can be dangerous and even deadly. When a child is born, he or she has low immunity, and it develops over time. The chances of your child catching vaccine-preventable diseases may be small, according to statistics. However, no parent would like their child to lack protection if they ever need it. The reasons are that a child is exposed to thousands of germs that can be deadly. Vaccines make use of small amounts of antigens to help a child’s immune system recognise and learn to fight diseases. Antigens are pieces of germs that cause the body’s immune system to start its fight mode.

3. What are the types of immunity gained through vaccines?

There are two types of immunity that can be achieved through the administration of vaccines. These include active immunity, which occurs when receiving the vaccine results in stimulating the immune system to attack the harmful agents present in the body. Another type is known as passive immunity conferred by vaccines to provide antibodies that are already made by the human body. Vaccines to provide either type of immunity can be administered through injections, sometimes even orally or even nasally.

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