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Mon, Aug

Vaccines: The sturdy suit of armor

Many vaccines can protect when injected even after exposure to a disease, for instance; rabies, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, measles and varicella

We need the robust ensemble of vaccines because prevention is better than cure. Vaccines could be thought of as our ‘guardian angels’, because they safeguard us from various battles of health, that we may encounter.

They endow us with the power, to forfend the affliction from many diseases; the power of a stronger immunity. Edward Jenner, was the man who used his scientific expertise to devise the first successful vaccine.

He created the vaccine to eradicate smallpox in 1796 and today, the world is free from one of the most catastrophic sicknesses known to human-race! The last case of naturally occurring smallpox, according to World Health Organisation (WHO), was detected in Somalia, in 1977. On May 8, 1980, smallpox was officially confirmed eliminated from the globe.

Now, it rests in the history books of vaccines. Since after its eradication, smallpox vaccination was also discontinued. Vaccines are imperative and are a laudable achievement to public health; for their ginormous involvement in saving millions of lives, aiding in economic growth, preventing lifelong disability in zillions, so on and so forth. In spite of their efficacious results, there is a large number of populace that still hesitates the usage of vaccines and deprives themselves of a strong immunity against diseases.

How vaccines work

The core objective of vaccines is to assist us develop immunity without getting sick. Higher the immunity, higher are our chances of avoiding an illness before it afflicts us. Stronger immunity also helps in combating an infection speedily, leading to much shorter recovery time. Just like a good watchdog and guard dog, our immunity, warns the immune system of foreign invaders (antigens) entering our body and threatens them by formation of proteins called antibodies. These antibodies destroy the foreign invaders (germs/pathogen/antigens) causing sickness.

The first time we get sick due to a certain antigen, our antibodies aren’t able to work as swiftly. But the second time an antigen tries to encroach, the antibodies kill it before it makes us ill. This is the power of immunity! Vaccines, are made up of the same antigens that cause disease, but those antigens are either weakened or killed and don’t cause any illness.

When vaccines containing these weakened antigens are injected in our body, our immune system reacts in the same way as it would to an active antigen.

With vaccination, these antibodies stay in our body, guarding it and enhancing the immunity. Hence, whenever we’re exposed to the real disease, antibodies already present in our immune system, fend it off.

There are quite a few people who have this misconception, that vaccines are essential only for toddlers. Yes, vaccination plays a substantial role in a healthy development of a child, but it is equally vital for adults too.

The terms; vaccine, vaccination and immunisation are all interlinked but have slightly different meanings to them. Vaccination is the procedure of injecting the vaccine and immunisation is the process by which a person or animal becomes secured from a disease. Without immunisations, serious outbreaks of many diseases, which we’re protected from can reoccur. Immunisation, is a way with which, parents give their newborns a healthy start to life and on the other hand protect themselves too.

Benefits of vaccines

Vaccination has globally, lessened the burden of infectious diseases. Consequently, it has lowered the death rate and improved the life expectancy. The bitter truth is that, vaccines are doubted for their safety issues and attract more attention for their risks instead of their effectiveness and advantages. Fortunately, vaccine scares have been proven to be false alarms, for those who have reservations and pessimism towards vaccines! It doesn’t give the disease it is designed to prevent.

 Fall in vaccination coverage, occurred in some countries due to lack of safety concerns. An eradicated pathogen can re-emerge only if accidently or maliciously reintroduced by human. As was portrayed in the movie, Inferno, based on Dan Brown’s bestseller novel.

Therefore, vaccines shield humankind from threats of bioterrorism, such as, smallpox and anthrax. Oral polio vaccine has managed to eliminate type two poliovirus worldwide, although type one and three are still prevalent in some parts. Similarly, there’s a ray of hope for elimination of rubella and mumps through high coverage of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This is also possible for the Haemophilis influenzae type b (Hib) disease.

In 1990s, more than 90 per cent cases of European, Native American, Chilean and African children exhibited the vaccine efficiency against invasive Hib infection. Moreover, natives of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America were able to relish lengthier and healthier lives because of mortality and morbidity decline in pneumococcal disease and rotavirus, respectively. Findings in Senegal, confirmed that, when vaccinated folks were exposed to whooping cough, they had considerably shorter period of chronic cough in comparison to unvaccinated folks.

Many vaccines can protect when injected even after exposure to a disease, for instance; rabies, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, measles and varicella. Such is the valor of vaccines!

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has shown to prevent the virus completely and descent in cervical cancer is expected with its use too. Malaria costs sub-Saharan Africa US$100 billion annually and has several favourable vaccines in development.

Vaccines evidently reduce the intake of antibiotics thereby, reducing the prevalence of antibiotic sensitive and multidrug- resistant strains as well. A punch in the face for superbugs! Influenza vaccines offer the elderly lot, with better quality of life. It reduces the chances of suffering from cardiovascular or cerebrovascular diseases by 20 per cent with overall 50 per cent reduction in death rate as per WHO. Cumulatively, vaccines aid in promotion of peace, economic growth, safe travel, various public health benefits, and last but not the least, women empowerment.

Be wise and immunise!

By now optimistically, we’re in unanimity that getting vaccinated is a sensible decision. Yes, there are quite a few of us, who tremble at the sight of those long needles of injections but it is a small price to pay for our and the well-being of our loved ones. Immunisation projects, have become bedrock of prime healthcare facilities and there’s no other safe or effective substitute to immunisation. Overall, vaccines act as a protective umbrella, to humanity, shielding it from petrifying agonies. Jeffrey Kluger says, “Vaccines save lives; fear endangers them. It’s a simple message parents need to keep hearing.”