Due to recent times, there has been an increased emphasis on the production of vaccines and how effective vaccines are against viruses like covid-19. This article will address the following questions: what are vaccines? ,how do vaccines work? , what are the advantages and disadvantages of vaccines? and should vaccines be compulsory?
What are vaccines?
A vaccine is a suspension of antigens that are intentionally put into the body to induce artificial active immunity. A specific immune response where antibodies are released by plasma cells.
How do vaccines work?
White blood cells called B- lymphocytes produce antibodies , which bind to antigens. After clonal selection and expansion, the B-lymphocytes that have become plasma cells secrete lots of antibody molecules (specific to the antigen) into the blood, lymph or linings of the lungs and the gut. These plasma cells are short-lived (their numbers drop off after several weeks) but the antibodies they have secreted stay in the blood for a longer time. The other B-lymphocytes become memory cells that remain circulating in the blood for a long time. This response to a newly encountered pathogen is relatively slow. This means that when you do come into contact with a virus your immune system will be able to produce antibodies faster which is called the secondary immune response. Furthermore, this also means that individuals who are vaccinated.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
An advantage of vaccines is heard immunity. Herd immunity arises when a sufficiently large proportion of the population has been vaccinated (and are therefore immune) which makes it difficult for a pathogen to spread within that population. Those who are not immunised are protected and unlikely to contract it as the levels of the disease are so low. It is very important as it allows for the individuals who are unable to be vaccinated (e.g. children and those with weak immune systems) to be protected from the disease. However, this can also be an disadvantage because the proportion of the population that needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity is different for each disease. If vaccination rates fall below the required level then herd immunity can break down. There was an outbreak of Measles in Swansea in 2012 due to a lack of vaccine uptake.
Should vaccines be compulsory?
Vaccines being compulsory would increase the percentage of the population being vaccinated. However, this is not the only way to increase vaccination rates, the UK has held an enviably high uptake rate for many years with the vast majority of parents choosing to vaccinate their children. Research into how to further improve uptake rates amongst vaccine hesitant parents suggests that talking concerns through with a trusted health professional is beneficial. Additionally, practical issues such as making sure that vaccines and health care are easy to access is essential. Many families who don't vaccinate are not averse to it but simply have difficulty getting convenient appointments or don’t get reminders when their children are due vaccines.