Vaccines Guide

Vaccination has been a routine medical practice for well over 100 years because of the many benefits it confers to patients. Vaccines are an important step towards preserving your health as an individual, but they also confer general protection towards the wider population as will be discussed later in this article.

What is vaccination?

A ‘vaccination’ is essentially a treatment designed to provide you with protection against a particular illness or disease. They are also referred to as ‘immunisations’, which refers to the fact that they work by triggering your body’s natural protective mechanisms, also known as the immune system. A vaccination aims to confer ‘immunity’ against illness.

How do vaccinations work?

There are a number of different types of vaccinations, but generally speaking, they work by introducing an element that triggers your body’s immune system. The immune system has the unique ability to effectively ‘learn’ the identity of an infecting agent and how to react to it, so after a vaccination, subsequent exposures to that same infectious agent results in a quicker and more effective immune response.

This means that when you are exposed to a bacteria or virus that causes illness after being vaccinated against that particular bacteria or virus, your body will be able to deal with the infection and thereby prevent you from getting ill.

In most cases infection results in an illness, after which your body adapts and you become immunised against that illness naturally. However there are certain diseases which can cause a very acute illness after exposure, and a classic example is smallpox. In these cases, your body doesn’t have a chance to properly defend itself against the disease causing infection, resulting in a much more harmful and dangerous illness.

A vaccination effectively primes your immune system so that it can react to the presence of these particularly harmful disease causing pathogens, thereby preventing what could otherwise be a severe illness.

This is extremely important considering the dangerous effects of conditions like polio and meningitis which can lead to disability and death. Vaccinating against these conditions is a very effective way of preventing their occurrence and saves lives across the world.

Why Should I Get a Vaccination? »