How Do Vaccines Protect You from Disease?
Vaccines Strengthen the Body’s Immune System
Thousands of different germs are present around us every day. The body’s immune system is designed to fight off most germs that cause disease.
Germs contain substances called antigens that send our immune response into “attack mode.” A baby’s immune system begins to fight germs right after birth.
Some deadly diseases are hard for our immune system to handle. Vaccines strengthen the immune system to protect us from dangerous diseases like polio, measles, or diphtheria.
How Do Vaccines Work?
- A vaccine contains tiny amounts of the antigen from a dead or weakened germ.
- The body’s immune system recognizes the antigen in the vaccine as the “enemy.”
- The immune system swings into action and produces cells called antibodies to attack the antigen.
- The immune system now has the necessary antibodies needed to fight the disease-causing germs.
Some vaccines are not approved for babies or young children. For example, the vaccine for measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) is not given to children until age 1. But vaccines can still protect this population from catching the viruses through herd immunity.
Herd immunity occurs when about 80% of people within a community are vaccinated against these serious childhood diseases. As a result, the measles, mumps, or rubella viruses are less able to circulate and cause infections in unvaccinated children.