Vaccines. Everywhere you look – in the news, on social media – there’s been talk about them, particularly as they pertain to the COVID-19 vaccine. But there are plenty of other vaccines that deserve some limelight as they have helped eradicate diseases that used to be common in this country and around the globe. Thanks to vaccines, we can live in a world with little threat from diseases like measles, polio and rotavirus. Vaccines are a way to protect ourselves – or become immune – from a disease, and that’s why we are happy that August has been recognized as Immunization Awareness Month.
Natural Immunization vs. Vaccinations
Immunity is how your body prevents disease. Everyone is born with an immune system that recognizes germs that enter, or antigens, as foreign invaders and when they do, the body produces proteins to fight them, called antibodies.
To become immune to a disease, a person first has to be infected with that antigen. The immune system goes to work by making antibodies but it can take some time, resulting in the antigen causing disease and making the person sick.
The upside is, the immune system remembers the antigen so the next time it tries to enter the body, the immune system can produce antibodies fast enough to prevent disease from developing a second time. In other words, the person has become immune to it.
A second, more effective way to gain immunity against certain diseases is through vaccines.
Vaccines contain the same antigens that cause diseases but they are killed or weakened to the point that they don’t actually cause disease in someone’s body. But, they are strong enough to make the immune system produce antibodies that lead to immunity. Vaccines allow people to develop immunity without having to actually get sick with a disease.
Let’s Talk About Children
Did you know newborn babies are immune to many different diseases? They gained this protection from their mothers while in the womb, but that immunity goes away after the first year of life. That’s why it’s important to get babies and children vaccinated. If their little bodies are exposed to a diseased gene, they may not be strong enough to fight off the disease.
In fact, before vaccines were invented, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent like whooping cough. The germs still exist but because of the vaccine, we don’t see the diseases nearly as often.
Immunizing babies and children is also good for the overall health of the community, too, especially those who cannot be immunized and for the portion of the population that doesn’t respond well to vaccines.
Vaccines are safe
Before anyone is stuck with a needle to get a vaccine, it goes through a rigorous development process followed by an equally-rigorous approval policy approval, overseen by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But the monitoring doesn’t stop then; the FDA continues to monitor the vaccine throughout its lifecycle to ensure its safety.
Are you and your family up-to-date on your vaccines? Many families put off visits to their provider during the pandemic, so now – Immunization Awareness Month – is the perfect time to make an appointment with your healthcare provider and get current on any vaccines you need.
We are happy to discuss any questions or concerns you have regarding any vaccine, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Please call our office and make an appointment with one of our healthcare providers today.