General Information About Vaccination
In vaccination, a specific element of a disease is introduced into the body by injection or spray and this stimulates a reaction in the immune system. After fighting off the vaccine, the body is considered resistant to that disease-specific microbe. Vaccination is a very effective method for preventing and eradicating disease in individuals and in general populations.
The most common type of vaccine contains a dead or weakened microbe. Antigens contained within the microbe announce the presence of the invader. The antigens also provide the immune system with a means of identifying the microbe. The body knows just which antibodies to release in response to a particular microbe which help it to fight off specific diseases.
After some time, the microbes are destroyed by the antibodies and cells are produced which remain on guard against any future incursion by an identical microbe. If the body senses the microbe has returned, the immune system can find and fight it fast before disease can make headway.
Different diseases respond to different vaccines. Some vaccines are best administered during early childhood and protect for a lifetime. Other vaccines may be given at a later point in time, such as when a traveler is bound to come into contact with a specific disease. Some vaccines can even be administered after infection occurs. This is often the case for diseases which have long incubation periods, such as tetanus, hepatitis B, measles, and rabies.
Some vaccines can bring on side effects from mild to severe, from a bit of itching or swelling at the site of injection, to anaphylactic reaction (severe and life-threatening allergic reaction). But most such side effects are mild and can be treated with ease.
In the last several years, some parents and medical experts have become concerned that a link may exist between vaccinations and conditions like ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and autism. The growing number of children with these disorders, in tandem with an ever-increasing number of children receiving routine vaccinations has led to this conclusion.
Some believe that these conditions are a response to preservatives used in vaccines, such as thimerosal, which is a mercury-containing compound. No evidence exists to support this theory, though much research has been carried out on this score. Because of this unsupported perception, thimerosal is no longer in wide use, and when used is utilized in very small amounts with the exception of its use in the inactive influenza vaccine, where its use is essential. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes there is no compelling evidence to suggest that thimerosal can cause harm other than minor side effects such as redness or swelling at the injection site.
Because many diseases once common in the United States have been almost eradicated, some people think the threat of such diseases no longer exist. They believe the side effects of the vaccines may be a more significant consideration than the slight possibility their child might contract the disease for which the vaccine yields immunity. There is little to support the avoidance of vaccines since side effects are mostly mild and complications from vaccines are rare. It is unusual to see a case of measles now, but there is still the odd case of this childhood disease in those who have not been vaccinated.
Smallpox is one disease that has been eradicated throughout the world, due to vaccination programs. The smallpox vaccine is no longer given to the general public and this has been the case now for over 30 years. It is true that it is possible to synthesize smallpox in a lab which might then be used as a bioterrorist agent. For this reason, the U.S. government has stockpiled the smallpox vaccine as a defense against any such possibility.