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What Vaccines Are and How They Work

What Vaccines Are and How They Work

With more and more Australians becoming aware of the importance of receiving the influenza vaccine in order to avoid contracting the flu, it is interesting to note that many people don’t really know or understand what vaccines are, how the work – or what different types are available. Although the science behind vaccines can be quite confusing, it is possible to gain a basic understanding of flu vaccinations and other products in order to more clearly realize how they work and why they are so incredibly important.

How Vaccines Work –

In simple terms, vaccines are a weakened disease that is introduced into your body’s immune system. While the organisms found in any given vaccine are not strong enough to actually make you ill, they still contain the antigens that stimulate your immune system to respond. These antigens produce an important phenomenon known as a primary response; this basically refers to the process by which your body’s B lymphocytes detect the antigens and form special cells. These cells evolve into plasma cells which immediately produce antibodies that fight off the organisms you are being vaccinated against.

Over time, antibodies fade from your body’s system; however, memory B cells stick around for many additional years – and this is where your immunity comes from. Vaccines work in very specific and proven ways to use your body’s natural defence mechanisms to protect you from specific diseases and illnesses. The popular flu vaccines are no exception to this, and they help protect you against the most common – and troublesome – flu strains. However, the flu does mutate over time, making yearly vaccinations necessary and highly recommended.

The Different Types Of Vaccines –

There are four basic different types of vaccines available today. Some of them may be injected, but others may be administered in oral form. The four main types of vaccines include:

Inactivated vaccine – this type contains a killed form of the organism that you are being protected against. The typhoid vaccine is one example of an inactivated – or killed – vaccine.

Live attenuated vaccine – this type of vaccine contains a live – but weakened – form of the organism or germ that you are ultimately being protected against. Examples of live attenuated vaccines include rubella and mumps.

Subunit vaccine – this one contains only the antigen – or the part of an organism that stimulates your immune system. The hepatitis B vaccine is one example.

Toxoid vaccine – this kind of vaccine contains an inactivated bacterial toxin; the tetanus vaccine is one example of this.