Polio, smallpox, mumps, measles and other dangerous diseases that once killed people are almost non-existent now in the U.S., thanks to vaccines. The coronavirus pandemic shines a light on why vaccines are crucial, now and for the future.
Vaccines prepare the body to protect healthy cells. When a virus or bacteria enters the body, it is like a foreign invader and is called an antigen. The immune system in your body naturally produces defenders — called antibodies — to fight off the invading antigens. While the body can produce millions of antibodies quickly, they may not be enough to completely fight off a powerful virus or bacteria. When the antibodies can’t keep up with the antigens, the virus invades more cells and multiplies, making a sick person even sicker.
Vaccines work by introducing dead or weakened forms of the antigen to the body. These antigens are not strong enough to make someone very sick. But the immune system still responds as if they are invaders, produces antibodies in response, and helps cells become immune to the disease. Cells that become immune to the disease are called memory cells and remain in the body.
When the body encounters that antigen again, the memory cells produce antibodies fast.These antibodies can quickly fight off viruses or bacteria, preventing serious illness.
Like sheltering in place, vaccines help both individuals and communities. Some people are too young or too old, or have physical issues that prevent them from being vaccinated. Getting vaccinated or establishing a quarantine creates a phenomenon called “herd immunity” which prevents the spread of disease to vulnerable people. Because it is a new virus, COVID-19 currently has no vaccine.However, scientists are now working to develop one that will protect us from the virus in the future.
Related Topics: Physical Health
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