How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccinations have been around since 1796, and have resulted in the eradication and control over multiple diseases worldwide. Smallpox killed millions of people before Dr. Edward Jenner discovered a vaccination in the late 18th century. Because vaccinations are usually considered preventative, many insurance plans cover these services.
How Does Immunity Work?
Once a disease enters your body, the germs begin to multiply and spread, making you sick. Our bodies can recognize and fight off these invaders, via our immune systems. White blood cells circulate through the bloodstream, and have two jobs. The white blood cells create antibodies to attack germs. Antibodies also remain in the body to recognize and attack the same germs they have originally fought off, in case that same germ tries to infect you again. This prevents those germs from making you sick again. This is how immunity works. That is why most people only get the chickenpox once in their lifetime.
Where Do Vaccines Come In?
Vaccines help you develop immunity to a certain type of disease without contracting the full blown disease first. Vaccines are made from weakened germs that cause a certain disease. Typically given by injection, vaccines introduce a weak version of the virus into your body, triggering your immune system to create antibodies. Because the vaccine germs lack full strength, the antibodies are able to quickly overtake them. The antibodies then stay in your system, creating immunity. If the real disease enters your body later, the antibodies are able to recognize and react quicker. Therefore preventing you from getting sick.
The invention of vaccines has eradicated several diseases, including Smallpox and Polio. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests and approves vaccines before they can be issued in the United States. The government enforces stringent safety guidelines, as doctors vaccinate millions of people a year. Vaccines protect you, as well as society. When a high number of the population is vaccinated, the entire population becomes less likely to contract that disease. Scientists call this herd immunity. On the flip side, if not enough people are vaccinated, the disease can reappear, and infect more people. Low numbers of the measles vaccination resulted in a measles outbreak which resulted in over 55,000 cases in 1989.