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About Vaccinations

 We have an inbuilt immune system that protects our body from harmful pathogens. In most cases, our body’s immunity is an efficient system to fight various infections and diseases. However, some organisms entering our system can overwhelm our immunity, leading to serious health issues.

Vaccination allows your immune system to prepare and eliminate these dangerous organisms if needed. Ideally, vaccination is an imperative form of preventive healthcare measure that keeps you from falling sick and controls the spread of diseases.

Moreover, widespread vaccination helps develop herd immunity, making people less likely to contract and suffer from any life-threatening infections. Polio is a notable disease that has been eradicated due to massive vaccination campaigns.

How Does Vaccination Work?

Typically, a healthy immune system will fight harmful organisms that enter the body. The immune system is built of various types of cells that defend and remove these organisms. However, for proper functioning of the immune system, it has to be able to recognise these dangerous diseases entering the body.

Vaccination allows the immune system to recognise possible new invaders and produce antibodies to fight them. Furthermore, the immune cells remember the type of organism that caused the infection and responds faster in the future.

In simple terms, you are exposed to a safer version of the disease via vaccine, which can be administered in any of the following forms:

  • A protein or sugar from the makeup of a pathogen

  • A dead or inactivated form of a pathogen

  • A toxoid containing the toxin made by a pathogen

  • A weakened pathogen

Through vaccination, your body is equipped to fight against the actual infection. A vaccine is given by injection and, at times, can have two doses. The first dose is known as antigen, a safe version of the disease that helps your immune system to recognise the infection. The second dose is known as the adjuvant, which sends danger signals to the body. It allows your body to respond faster and stronger against the antigen, thus boosting your immunity.

Vaccination Schedule

Not all vaccines are given immediately after birth. There is a specific timeline for each immunization schedule, as some need multiple doses. The following vaccination chart will help you understand the same.

Vaccine List

Age

Vaccination Dose

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Birth

Second at 1-2 months; third at 6-18 months

Rotavirus Vaccine (RV)

2 months

Second at 4 months; third at 6 months

Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Whooping Cough: DPT Vaccine

2 months

Second at 4 months; third at 6 months; fourth between 16-18 months; then every 10 years

Haemophilus Influenzae Type-B (Hib)

2 months

Second at 4 months; third at 6 months; fourth between 12-15 months

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV13)

2 months

Second at 4 months; third at 6 months; fourth between 12-15 months

Inactivated Polio Vaccine (IPV)

2 months

Second at 4 months; third at 6-18 months; fourth at 4 to 6 years

Influenza

6 months

Repeat yearly

Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR Vaccine)

12-15 months

Second between 4-6 years

Varicella

12-15 months

Second between 4-6 years

Hepatitis A

12-23 months

Second between 6 months after the first

Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (HPV)

11-12 years old

2-shot series 6 months apart

Meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY)

11-12 years old

Booster at 16 years old

Serogroup B Meningococcal (MenB)

16-18 years old

 

Pneumococcal (PPSV23)

19-65+ years old

 

Herpes Zoster (Shingles-RZV formulation)

Two doses at 50 years old

 

Is Vaccination Safe?

Vaccines are safe. They undergo multiple levels of robust testing in terms of research and examination before being made available to the public. You will come across a bulk of research material regarding each approved vaccination readily available online. It provides evidence regarding vaccine safety and how rare the side-effects will be. Even if you do experience any side-effects, they are usually mild and do not cause any serious health issues.

A greater risk for most people is when they choose not to get vaccinated, which exposes them to life-threatening infections.

Pros and Cons of Vaccination

The following table gives an overview of the pros and cons of vaccination.

Vaccination Pros

Vaccination Cons

Vaccines help in immunisation against various life-threatening diseases

Since each vaccine is developed with different components, they can each affect you differently. For instance, if you developed an allergic reaction to a certain vaccination dose, you are most likely to suffer from a reaction after the next dose

Researchers undergo a rigorous process of testing and examination before making the vaccine available to the public

In some cases, you can still get infected after the vaccination if you have you have a genetically weak immune system

Vaccines provide optimum protection to everyone

People with weak immune systems are most likely to be kept under close supervision after vaccination

Vaccination Side-Effects

Although you can suffer from the side-effects of certain vaccinations, they tend to be very mild. Some common vaccination side-effects are as follows:

  • Pain, redness, or swelling at the injection site

  • Joint pain near the injection site

  • Muscle weakness

  • Low-grade to high fever

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Fatigue

  • Memory loss

  • Muscle paralysis

  • Hearing or vision loss

  • Seizures

Additionally, be aware of the risk factors that can cause health issues post-vaccination. These include:

  • Having weak or suppressed immunity

  • Being sick before getting the vaccination dose

  • Having a family or personal history of vaccine side-effects

How Effective Are Vaccines?

Typically, any vaccination dose is said to be highly effective. However, the effectiveness tends to differ for different vaccinations. Flu vaccines lower the risk of infection by 40-60%. On the other hand, measles vaccination is 98% effective and is highly recommended. Additionally, all vaccines given after birth are 85-95% effective when administered properly.

Vaccination in Children

Children are vaccinated to safeguard their developing immune system against a variety of infections. Most newborns inherit immunity against certain diseases from their mothers. However, the immunisation wanes over time and a vaccination dose needs to be given to keep children from falling sick.

Vaccination Ingredients

As stated earlier, vaccines help your immune system recognise the disease and defend your body from it in the future. Currently, four types of vaccines are used:

  1. Killed (Inactive) Vaccines: These are developed from dead/inactive organisms that cause the actual infection.

  2. Live Virus Vaccines: These use an attenuated version of the actual virus or bacteria.

  3. Toxoid Vaccines: These are developed from harmful chemicals or toxins that bacteria or viruses produce. Ideally, toxoid vaccines do not lead to immunisation against the infection but make you immune to the harmful side-effects of the organism. Eg: tetanus shot.

  4. Subunit, Recombinant, Polysaccharide, and Conjugate Vaccines: These take a structural component from the actual infection to train your immune system to attack this part of the organism.

Additionally, some vaccine ingredients also include additives, such as:

  • Suspending fluid

  • Adjuvants or enhancers

  • Preservatives and stabilisers

  • Antibiotics

Vaccination During Pregnancy

Taking vaccines during pregnancy not only protects the mother but helps the unborn child develop a natural immunity after birth too. During the nine months of pregnancy, the mother and child require optimum protection against several life-threatening diseases. Vaccines help build immunity and, thus, are an essential part.

The North American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends women planning to bear a child to get an MMR vaccination before conceiving. It protects the mother and unborn child against rubella, which is known to cause serious issues like birth defects or miscarriage. Other vaccinations recommended by the CDC for women are for whooping cough (Tdap) and influenza.

Moreover, women can receive vaccinations post-pregnancy as well, even when breastfeeding. Post-pregnancy vaccinations tend to protect the newborn in several ways. If the mother is immune to a virus or bacterium, the child is less likely to contract the infection.

Active vs Passive Immunity

Immunisation from a vaccine is achieved in the following ways:

  • Active Immunisation

It is the type of immunity that your body develops on its own to fight the antigens of the infection. Active immunisation offers long-term protection against the disease. It can be developed naturally after you recover from the infection or through vaccination.

  • Passive Immunisation

This type of immunisation offers short-term protection against infections. For passive immunisation, one needs to receive the antibodies (like a mother transferring them to her unborn child during pregnancy). It can also be developed artificially in the body through the injection of immune globulins.

Final Takeaway

Getting vaccinated is an ideal way to prevent yourself from contracting any diseases. Know that the vaccines available to the public are safe and have undergone several tests by researchers. In simple terms, vaccination is completely safe. If you are wondering the cost it might entail, know that certain health insurance plans cover you for most vaccine doses. Get in touch with your insurance provider to know more about the same.

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