Vaccines play an important role in keeping us healthy, by reducing the risk of infection. The vaccine works with with our natural immune system to build defenses and immunity to a specific disease. When germs (either a bacteria or virus) invade the body, they attack and multiply. This is called an infection. In response, the body’s immune system, a network of cells, tissues and organs, work together to protect your body and get rid of the infection. If the germ is new or foreign to your immune system, it make take several days for your immune system to act, as it is learning how to fight off the infection. Because your immune system has a great memory, if the germ comes back, your immune system will be able to fight it off faster, keeping you healthier and happier.
When you get a vaccine, it imitates an infection which allows the immune system to develop immunity. The vaccine rarely causes illness since it is a small amount of weak or dead germs that can cause the disease. This allows the immune system to produce antibodies and prepare your body to fight the disease faster and more effectively. This way you won’t get sick or reduce the severity of the symptoms.
There are several different types of vaccines:
- A Live Vaccine fight viruses and bacteria. These vaccines contain a version of the living virus or bacteria that has been weakened so it does not cause serious disease in people with a healthy immune system. Since this type of vaccine is closest the “real” infection, it is the best teacher for your immune system. An example of this type is the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine or the Chickenpox vaccine.
- An Inactivated Vaccine also fight viruses and bacteria. The vaccine includes germs which are killed (or inactive). Since the vaccine produces an immune response which is slower than a live vaccine, often times multiple doses are necessary to build up and maintain immunity. An example of this type of vaccine would be the polio vaccine.
- A Toxoid Vaccine prevents diseases caused by bacteria that produce toxins in the body. When the immune system receives a vaccine containing a toxoid, the immune system learns to fight off the natural toxin should you come into contact with it. An example of this type would be the diphtheria and tetanus vaccine.
- A Subunit Vaccine, similar to the inactivated vaccine, this vaccine doesn’t contain live components of a virus or bacteria. It contains only specific parts of the germ (also scientifically known as an antigen) that is necessary to teach your immune system how to fight off the virus. Side effects for this type of vaccine is less common, as it is not give the whole germ. An example of this would be the Whooping Cough Vaccine.
- A Conjugate Vaccines fights off a different type of bacteria. Bacteria can sometimes go unnoticed by your immune system by disguising themselves. This make it hard for your immune system to recognize and respond to the bacteria. The vaccine gives information to recognize the disguised bacteria to your immune system. Therefore, letting your immune system react and develop a response. An example of this type of vaccine is the Hib vaccine.
While vaccines work in different ways, they all have an important task in keeping us healthy. Medical advancements for vaccines are an important part of continuing to keep us healthy. Research is about finding out new knowledge that could lead to changes in treatment, or care. This new knowledge give investigational vaccines the potential to have greater protection to disease and update current ones to be more effective and safe. If you would like to be a part of a community of research heroes, and would like to participate in a vaccine research study, give us a call today at 585-288-0890.