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Vaccines are injections that protect us from diseases. They work by triggering our bodies to mount an immune response against that disease. Our bodies learn about that disease and learn to fight it when we come into contact with it. Vaccinations last a long time, often years and years. They are an important part of kids health.
Vaccinations reduce Diseases
Vaccinations are one of the great inventions of modern medicine. They are so great that many people have hardly heard of the diseases that they protect us from.
Vaccinations even have the added bonus of protecting people who aren’t vaccinated. There is something called ‘herd immunity’. If enough people in a population (it’s a specific percentage for each vaccination) are vaccinated, the disease disappears from the population. The people who weren’t vaccinated are protected as they aren’t exposed to the disease.
I wouldn’t recommend this as a way of protecting your child. When the uptake of that vaccination falls (as with the MMR) the disease returns and obviously it is the unvaccinated children who are at risk.
Different types of Vaccines
Vaccinations can either be ‘inactivated vaccines’ or ‘live vaccines’. Both types stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies specifically to that disease. The timing of the vaccination program has been designed to maximise protection. The immune system has to have a certain amount of maturity to produce the antibodies.
Side-effects of Vaccinations
Vaccinations are one of the safest medicines that there are. The side-effects are very few.
- Localised swelling
- Mild fever
- Allergic reaction
Your child may have a localised reaction at the site of the injection. It may get red, swollen and sore.
They may also be irritable and have a mild fever for a few days afterwards. That is their immune system working to produce all those great antibodies.
Occasionally people have allergic reactions to vaccinations and very very occasionally people have a severe allergic reaction called an anaphylactic shock with breathing problems (call an ambulance if you suspect an anaphylactic reaction).
In the Western World, we are really privileged to be able to protect our children with vaccines. This is a privilege that many people in the Developing World do not have. Sadly, many of them have to watch their children die of diseases that would have been prevented if the vaccination was available to them (for example measles).