Vaccination basics: what you need to know


Since the turn of the century scientists have been trying to develop newer, better ways to protect the population from disease and illness.  Since the first rudimentary vaccines were scratched into the skin of adults and children, there has been both opposition and support for their use.  Constantly stained by reluctance, vaccination practices have earned a reputation in some arenas for their potentially dangerous or even deadly side effects.  Despite the fears held by many, the practice has been touted to be one of the greatest developments of the 20th century.  Following the recommendations of physicians, many adults line themselves and their children up for vaccinations anytime health care professionals say so.

A relatively basic process in a complex system, developing immunity is virtually automatic–taken over by the body’s natural defenses once an invader is detected in the body.  A vaccination is a medication that is typically manufactured to contain a dead or weakened live form of the virus or bacteria responsible for a certain illness.  The medication is then introduced into the body in one of several ways–by injection (which is the most common) with a needle, by nasal spray, or even by an oral preparation.


The medication triggers the production of antibodies once it reaches the blood stream and starts the process of developing immunity.  Antibodies are proteins that seek out and destroy bacteria and viruses that can cause disease.  By introducing the body to the disease-causing particles, antibodies will develop to stop the condition from ever being able to cause symptoms in most people.  In some cases vaccinations keep symptoms mild if an outbreak does ever occur.


Vaccinations are typically started during infancy,as in the case of the Hepatitis B vaccination which can be given within hours of birth.  The Centers for Disease Control offers a variety of resources regarding vaccination schedules that must be followed by health care providers.  Other immunizations may be given at specific times during the lifespan to boost immunity–thusly these vaccines are termed “boosters” to help remind the immune sysytem of its very important role in disease prevention. Each with a different schedule some vaccines are only given once in a lifetime and others may require several vaccinations months apart to build defense.


The benefits of vaccination have been well-documented but there remains a hard reality in their dangers as well.  Vaccines are often dismissed in importance and overlooked for their ability to produce adverse reactions.   As with any medication the risk of side effects is real and may be unpredictable and even deadly.  The Centers for Disease Control had developed a database for reporting any suspected adverse reaction to a vaccine. Known as the VAERS, medical professionals as well as others may report both mild and severe symptoms.  Everything from redness and swelling to siezures, coma and death is collected into a database and health officials attempt to follow up on the most significant reports of side effects to try to verify their source.


Many vaccine reactions are dismissed as “coincidence” or never followed up on at all due to a lack of information from the reporting end.  All callers to the VAERS should be sure to provide the name, address, telephone number and other pertinent data related to the injured party for proper investigation.


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