How Do Vaccines Work? banner

By westgate June 8, 2020

How Do Vaccines Work?

As the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine to be developed, you may be wondering how vaccines actually work. Vaccines are administered to help your body develop immunity to diseases by imitating an infection.

The body’s reaction to vaccines is to produce defensive white blood cells (T-lymphocytes, B-lymphocytes and macrophages) and antibodies to fight the infection. This process takes a few weeks to fully develop, but after the imitation (initial) infection is gone, the defensive white blood cells will remember how to fight the disease if you should be exposed to the disease in the future.

Vaccines do not cause you to become ill!

This is a myth. However, it is possible for you to become ill with the disease for which you were vaccinated while the immunity process is underway. There is also a possibility that you will develop mild symptoms such as a fever after receiving the vaccine.

One is not always enough.

Some vaccines require multiple doses or boosters for maximum protection. Vaccines for the seasonal flu must be administered every year to provide protection for the current strain of influenza.

There are different types of vaccines.

  • Live, attenuated vaccines: a weakened version of the living virus or bacteria. Examples include chickenpox, mumps, measles, rubella.
  • Inactivated vaccines: made by killing the virus or bacteria during the process of making the vaccine. The polio vaccine is one example.
  • Toxoid vaccines: made for diseases caused by toxin-producing bacteria. The toxins are weakened with these vaccines. The DTaP vaccine is one example.
  • Subunit vaccines: only part of the virus or bacteria germs are included in the vaccine. The whooping cough vaccine is one example.
  • Conjugate vaccine: bacteria with antigens that have an outer coating of sugar-like substances (polysacchariedes) can be fought with these vaccines. The Hib vaccine is one example.

The natural process may cause more problems.  

Yes, it is true that you can develop immunity from certain diseases by actually contracting the disease and fighting it naturally. But there is no way to know if you will develop serious complications from preventable diseases – even requiring hospitalization and in some extreme cases permanent disability or even death.

Vaccines exist for a reason. They allow you to be proactive with your health and the health of your children. To learn more about the recommended vaccines for people of all ages, contact the doctors at Westgate Family Physicians. They provide adult and child vaccinations in Spartanburg, SC. They will take time to inform you about your risks for contracting certain diseases, which vaccinations we recommend and the risks/benefits of each vaccine. Please call (864) 574-0070 or click here to schedule an appointment.