A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins or one of its surface proteins. The agent stimulates the body's immune system to recognize the agent as foreign, destroy it, and "remember" it, so that the immune system can more easily recognize and destroy any of these microorganisms that it later encounters.
Vaccines can be prophylactic (example: to prevent or ameliorate the effects of a future infection by any natural or "wild" pathogen), or therapeutic (e.g. vaccines against cancer are also being investigated).
Vaccines do not guarantee complete protection from a disease. Sometimes, this is because the host's immune system simply does not respond adequately or at all. This may be due to a lowered immunity in general (diabetes, steroid use, HIV infection, age) or because the host's immune system does not have a B cell capable of generating antibodies to that antigen.
Even if the host develops antibodies, the human immune system is not perfect and in any case the immune system might still not be able to defeat the infection immediately. In this case, the infection will be less severe and heal faster.
Who should get vaccinated?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have come out with updated vaccine guidelines for adults, especially women in the reproductive age group:
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccination is recommended for women of all ages.
- All adults should receive 2 doses of Varicella vaccine.
- The influenza vaccine is indicated in all adults and should be repeated yearly.
In the Philippines, the peak of the flu season is during the rainy months of June to September. The best time to get the flu vaccine is between March and June, although getting immunized in later months can still provide protection.
More vaccine guidelines
- In pregnant women, the only vaccines to be avoided are MMR, varicella and herpes zoster.
- Don’t get pregnant one month after receiving these vaccines.
- All adults between 19-64 years old should receive tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap). If pregnant, wait till after the 5th month.
- Pneumococcal vaccine should be given to all adults from age 65 and above. It may be given at a younger age if the adult has diabetes, asthma or a history of cigarette smoking.
- Hepatitis A and B vaccination should be repeated every 5 years.
With these new guidelines, it is hoped that an immunized populace will mean the eradication of preventable diseases that lead to many serious conditions.
Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
JaKe Positive. BE SAFE! +)