So let’s get straight into it, shall we? What is a vaccine?
Vaccines are a biological cocktail that is exposed to your body to teach it to destroy antigens (i.e. disease-causing agents) and build a memory/tolerance around the antigen. This memory/tolerance is built by teaching your body WHAT is harmful and HOW the antigen causes harm.
Just as a quick note though – there are various types of vaccines. Some vaccines help protect against bacteria, some against viruses, etc. Regardless of whether these vaccines protect against bacteria or viruses, their basic mechanism of protection is the same. Below, we will go through two types of vaccines through hopefully easy-to-follow examples.
So let’s go through an example – who hasn’t enjoyed watching videos of toddlers biting into a sliced lemon for the first time? Now if you give the baby some lemon on the first day, she has no idea what it is and immediately does what she can – takes the biggest bite out of it. Then there’s the funny reaction where she either loves it or hates it. Right?
Now imagine this – she had lemon the first time and was not a fan. If you give it to her every day of the week, she will probably make the mistake of biting out a huge chunk of it for a couple of days. Until she LEARNS that she doesn’t like it. That is a learned behaviour. She has been exposed to it enough to know she doesn’t like it, but the lemon does not harm.
Similarly, a vaccine is a little “taster” – it usually does NOT harm your body. Just teaches your body how to respond to a “threat”. The major component for a lot of vaccines is dead bacteria, which are not threatening to the human body, as the bacteria are dead.
Although dead, these are foreign (and “new”) to the body. Because of this, they will still elicit an immune response. This is NOT a bad thing – at most, it would give you a little bit of a cough or a fever, which is by far waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy better than contracting a possibly deadly disease in the future (which you most likely will if you’re not vaccinated). The immune response is for the body to learn how to kill an otherwise live bacterium, which you may be exposed to playing in the fields, or when someone coughs at you on the tube to work.
Other vaccines have a tiny minuscule part of the bacterium or virus mixed into a cocktail. This tiny part is minuscule, smaller than the dead bacteria. To put this into perspective, let’s imagine this – what good is a football without a player? I mean the football would just sit there and do nothing – it will continue being a football and maybe roll about itself on a super windy day in Manchester. You can’t score the best goal or even the worst goal in the world without a football player.
Similarly, our minuscule goofball friend would be able to do virtually nothing or just roll about itself. It can’t cause disease without the rest of its body. Like before, it’s just present in the environment of your body, which is enough to elicit an immune response to teach the body about its mechanism of action i.e. how it can cause a disease without actually causing it.
Again, this teaching goes a long way to prevent deadly diseases, so if you or your baby has a little bit of a fever after a vaccination – this means the vaccine has served its purpose. It has taught your body how to fight and defend its position, and be in better stead when the footballer and the football come together with an attack.
No one would disagree; it is always better to know your enemy to bring them down right? So keep up with your vaccinations, and know thy enemy – and you have a better chance of winning.
As always – any questions, feel free to email me/comment below.