Vaccination and Disease Prevention: Naturally, the immune system of a body helps protect against pathogens that cause infection. The immune system is innately as well as when acquired immunity as when exposed to pathogens is an efficient system to curb these microorganisms by tracking them down or completely get rid of them out of the system. Sometimes, some pathogens trick the immune system and overwhelm it, and cause serious diseases. Although improved sanitation, hygiene, and other living conditions certainly create a healthier environment and help reduce the risks for disease exposure. But in the long term, a decrease in infectious diseases is primarily a result of widespread vaccination.
What is a vaccine?
The vaccine is a biological preparation that helps provide and strengthen acquired immunity towards a particular infection that led to the disease.
Vaccines contain tiny fragments of the disease-causing microorganisms or such particles that act as a blueprint for making the tiny fragments.
The vaccine components serve a specific purpose.
Most of the vaccines contain two parts- antigen and the adjuvant (improves the immune response to the vaccine).
Vaccines are usually administered intravenously or intramuscularly (as in the case of COVID-19), i.e., given by injection.
It is either a tiny part of the disease-causing organism or a weakened, non-dangerous version so that the body can learn the specific way to fight it without getting sick.
It helps improve the immune response to vaccines does by keeping the vaccine at the injection site for a little longer or by stimulating local immune cells.
It prevents chemical reactions from occurring within the vaccine and keeps the vaccine components from sticking to the vaccine vial. Biomolecules used as stabilizers are – Sugars (lactose, sucrose)- Amino acids (Glycine)- Gelatin- Proteins (either derived from human albumin or from yeast)
They help keep all the ingredients in the vaccine blended together. They prevent settling and clumping of elements that are in the liquid form of the vaccine. They are also often used in foods like ice cream.
It is a liquid used to dilute a vaccine to the correct concentration immediately before use. The most commonly used diluent is sterile water.
These are tiny amounts of various substances used during the manufacturing or production of vaccines that are not active ingredients in the completed vaccine.
What is vaccination?
The administration of vaccines is called vaccination or immunization. Vaccination helps protect an individual from getting an infectious disease.
Vaccination helps guide the immune system on how to recognize and eliminate the pathogen.
When an individual gets vaccinated, they, in turn, help protect others as well.
It is much safer to get the vaccine than an infectious disease.
When enough people are vaccinated, they help protect the society, as herd immunity is established and further spread of the infectious disease is restricted.
Note: Vaccinations are a prominent and important form of primary prevention.
Vaccination helps protect an individual and those in the vicinity and in the community who could not be vaccinated. Hence, it is advisable to get vaccinated. Check out a few of the frequently asked questions that have been answered by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Q 1. If I had already had COVID-19, do I still need to be vaccinated?
WHO: Most people with COVID-19 do develop an immune response to curb it, but there is a subgroup of people, those who have had a very mild infection, and sometimes they don’t even know it, as it is asymptomatic.
Those people have less strong immune response compared to those who have been seriously ill and get a good antibody response.
In general, WHO recommends that people should get a vaccine if they are fallen to that priority group, regardless of the fact whether they have had a previous infection or not.
The immune system recognizes the same antigen, the same protein.
So even after having the infection, it is advisable to get the vaccine.
Vaccine acts like a booster and it boosts that immune response, both the antibody response as well as the T cell response, assuring a good immune response.
How long this immunity will last, researchers are still researching on that. Therefore, get a vaccine whether one had a previous infection or not.
Q 2. The current batch against COVID-19 is not for children under 16; what is the reason and the science behind that?
WHO: Whenever new vaccines are developed, they go through the clinical trial, i.e., the testing in people with the disease in order to make sure that they are both safe and effective.
And this usually starts with adults because in case there is an unexpected side effect, nobody wants children to be the first ones exposed.
All the vaccines developed so far have been tested in people above 18 years and, in one case, 16 years. This is the population group for which the data is available. Hence, for them, the vaccines are recommended.
Because COVID-19 is a much more serious and deadly disease in older people, all the developers have ensured that older people and people with underlying diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease have been included.
Therefore, data is available indicating that vaccines work and it is safe to use (the ones that are getting approval).
The studies in children will be starting soon. And in the next coming months, more data on children will be available. Also, global supplies of vaccines are limited, are being targeted to those at the highest risk initially.
As the data is available, guidelines along with vaccines would be made available for the children.
Q 3. What are the common side effects of the current batch of vaccines? Also, when should one call the doctor after vaccination?
WHO: After the vaccination, health care officials ask the patient to wait and observe them. Very rarely, one gets an allergic reaction.
The common symptoms after vaccination usually are pain or redness or swelling on the arm at the site of the injection, you might get a mild fever, bodyache or a headache etc.
This is expected because it is the body’s immune system reacting to this antigen that is been put into the body and the immune system is gearing up to fight.
It usually lasts 2 or 3 days, not more than that and then one feels absolutely fine.
If during initial 2-3 days, anyone develops unusual, and the symptoms persist then it should be reported to the doctor and the same place where one got vaccinated.
Because it is important that one tracks and records the unusual side effect data.
The good thing is that nearly 100 million vaccines have been deployed worldwide and so far, there have been no big warning signs. But data needs to be tracked and follow-ups must be taken.