Infectious diseases, viruses, and deadly bacteria have loomed in the dark corners of the human psyche, and with good reason. Looking back to the era before vaccinations were used to fight the worst of these infectious scourges, wide-sweeping illness regularly took its toll on families, villages, kingdoms, and continents. And while some of these diseases and viruses were not highly deadly, others, like the plague and smallpox, changed the course of history and caused millions of deaths.
Vaccines are the way that people have worked to inoculate and protect themselves from these kinds of wide-spreading infections and risks. And where once people had only primitive, unpredictably effective ways of trying to immunize, vaccines are now available from any primary care provider nationwide.
In today’s post from Medics USA, we will briefly explore what a vaccine is, how it works, and why you should make sure to stay current with yours. Read on to learn more, or schedule an appointment with us for a check-up or vaccination.
Primitive inoculation against disease through some sort of mild exposure may have existed for over a thousand years, and a clear link between exposure has been identified since the 1700s. However, modern vaccines have eliminated some of the world’s most horrific diseases and reduced others like measles by close to 80%.
The fact that widespread vaccination is available from your primary care doctor is a powerful shield against widespread disease, assuming that most people get vaccinated. You see, while vaccines work almost perfectly on the individual level, they also work on a much larger level.
When enough people in a population are vaccinated, the ability for a disease or infection to spread rampantly is mitigated so much that even non-vaccinated people are less likely to become infected.
What Goes Into A Vaccine?
The single most important element of a vaccine is the antigen. An antigen is something that causes the body’s immune system to react against it and produce antibodies. This is what allows your body to create a blueprint for future defense against a given illness.
Vaccines also can contain some other ingredients, although it is important to note that each vaccine is “built” differently and you should always ask your primary care physician about the makeup of a given vaccine if you have any questions or specific concerns. PublicHealth.org has a great article on some of the most common ingredients, which we encourage you to review as a starting point.
How A Vaccine Helps Protect You
When a vaccine is injected into your body, it brings with it an antigen — a foreign body that when recognized by the immune system will provoke an immune response. Your immune system will produce antibodies that attack and kill these invading antigens, and in doing so, will create a blueprint for recognizing and fighting the pathogen those antigens came from in the future. In essence, a vaccine trains your body how to deploy a rapid and effective response to specific kinds of viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
However, immunization against disease on a large scale also provides benefits to people who didn’t receive vaccines through something called “herd immunity.” The idea is that as more and more people within a given population gain resistance, a disease will have a harder time spreading rapidly due to a lack of vulnerable hosts.
In one case studied by the WHO, Gambia was able to eliminate Hib disease entirely by vaccinating just seven out of every ten people in the country. Although there are no guaranteed immunization thresholds for stopping a disease, the implications are clear — vaccination is both an individual and social shield and responsibility, especially when it is so readily available from primary care doctors, immunization drives, and other medical providers.
Schedule Your Immunization and Vaccination Appointment Today
At Medics USA, we provide our patients in the Washington, D.C. area with outstanding primary care services and urgent care services after hours. We provide immunizations and vaccines for children and adults and are happy to schedule you for an appointment to get yours by filling out our online form. For a full list of recommended vaccines, please visit the Center for Disease Control’s website.