Updated: Apr 30, 2019
Due to the hype over the declaration of a few ill effects seen with the use of vaccines, many people nowadays are absolutely giving up the idea of protecting themselves and their loved ones. Here we would like to mention the basics of vaccines; how they are formulated and what to expect.
What is an infant exposed to?
When you know the facts about organisms and its effect on the human body, you will feel more safe at heart.
We are exposed to millions of organisms on a daily basis. Some organisms are dangerous while others are not so and are called commensals, being beneficial for the normal body. The exposure to these kind of organisms is not bad as these form the milieu of our world. We gradually develop immunity to many of these organisms and this make us stronger to punch them back.
Coming to the dangerous or pathogenic organisms, these have the potential to cause a disease and despite their miniature sizes, we require active immunity in the form of antibodies that specifically target these organisms, to be safe from those diseases.
What are vaccines and what is their relation to infection?
Basically, an infection is caused by bad or pathogenic organisms and happens only when it crosses a certain threshold by multiplication. Speaking of Hepatitis B; the Hepatitis B vaccines provide just 30 micrograms of surface components of the virus while for Hepatitis B infection to take place a titer of 2,000 IU is considered a mark.
So ultimately the brunt of organisms in disease and in vaccine is incomparable.
Even then, in the constant effort of decreasing the antigenic load in vaccines, smarter and better engineered vaccines are produced that are a lot safer. A 1991 pertussis vaccine contained 3,000 antigens while today it contains no more than 5 antigens.
It can be picturized as just the brushing of enough antigens for our immune system to get activated and be ready for disease prevention. It will make a shield against those illnesses.
How do side effects of vaccine come to be?
The very purpose of a vaccine is to incite an immune response towards a rather minute fraction of organisms. Even though the vaccine is inserted just like a medicine, the beneficial effect is produced by our body's action towards it. When implementing the action, responses such as mild fever, flu, diarrhea occur and nothing alarming. In very rare instances where the body mounts an exaggerated immune response do a higher severity of ill effects occur.
Are you worried over giving multiple vaccines at the same time?
It is estimated that an infant has the capacity to respond to about 10,000 vaccines at any one time. The 11 routinely recommended vaccines together results in the immune system using only about 0.1% of its capacity to process them. So we'd do better than underestimating our babies.
The antigens may be dead or alive or just particles of organisms according to the vaccine preparations. These preparations are formulated and tested to be safe and fit enough to make antibodies to protect your child. There are certain precautions to be taken in case of combinations and also in the spacing of vaccine (depending on the type of preparation) that will be done by the health worker as per schedule.
New generation vaccines:
They are produced in optimum conditions so that the particle size of the combinations of 10 or more vaccines are just around 150 minuscule in comparison to 1500 minuscule, in a much lesser number of vaccines in the past. Just as mentioned about the Pertussis vaccine.
In short, vaccines are no magic potion but they come close to it. Many diseases that were untreatable and labelled as 'the most dreadful scourge' more like a disability like Polio or death penalty like Small Pox have been eradicated from this world by the use of vaccines.
What is Herd Immunity?
Herd immunity is the safety from illness achieved through the aid of others! Some of us may be thinking that our children are alright even without vaccination; hear the secret behind it.
In case of human to human transmitted diseases, if 85% of the vaccination is achieved by other people, there is less chance for the organisms to get to us as we are in a well protected cocoon. However, it is not guaranteed. If the virus manages to reach to us ... we will have to face it.
Eradication by Vaccines
Edward Jenner was the pioneer in immunization against Small Pox (also known as Variola).
Small Pox presented as multiple red and fluid filled or blood filled lesions along with high grade fever, cold, and fatigue that resolved leaving permanent scars. Not only was this disease extremely contagious but there was no cure and managed by supportive measures in isolation.
Vaccination was initiated in 1796 and the disease was declared successfully eradicated worldwide in 1986. Nowadays, it is only healthcare personnel who conduct research on the Small pox organisms that require vaccination for the same.
Another dreadful disease that is targeted by vaccination is Polio, also known as Infantile Paralysis. This disorder that begins as a mere flu-like illness is known to progress into muscle weakness, paralysis, and meningitis that can ultimately be fatal. Rather catastrophically, polio that subsided as just a flu-like illness can rebound as Post-Polio syndrome resulting in muscle weakness and paralysis.
After the advent of vaccines in 1950, polio has been successfully eradicated as a health hazard in most countries and headed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Center of Disease Control (CDC), the last of this is in the horizon.
As of now, the persons susceptible of contracting this dreadful illness are those who have never been vaccinated, not followed the recommended schedule and those travelling to regions were polio has not been eradicated.
The other diseases for which vaccines have become very promising are Diphtheria, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Tetanus, Mumps, Measles, Rubella (German measles), Chicken pox, Pneumococcus, Hepatitis A and B, Influenza virus, Human Papilloma virus, and Yellow fever. These results have only been achieved through knowledge and cooperation.
The Goal of vaccines is ultimately to protect against dangerous diseases and their unwanted deleterious effects.
Dr Saieda K.M (DCH Ireland, MRCP UK). is a Consultant Pediatrician, with wide experience in various branches of pediatrics with special interest in dealing with very young infants too. She is currently practicing at Al Arif Heart and Children Medical Center in Rolla, Sharjah.
This information is brought to you by Specialized doctors in Al Arif Heart and Children Medical Center, Al Mujarrah, Sharjah, UAE. Keep yourselves fit as a fiddle.