How Do Vaccines Work

There should not be many people in the world who are not somewhat familiar with Edward Jenner. Even if they do not know what he is famous for, they should know the product he created and that was the world's first small pox vaccine. With this discovery, a world of health solutions opened up for humanity.

No longer is death by small pox or debilitating pain from polio, nor serious illness from measles, mumps or rubella, a constant danger. Through a series of scheduled vaccinations, usually twenty-one in all, a child is protected against diseases once capable of wiping out masses of people. But just how do vaccines work in protecting us against deadly diseases

Vaccines work their magic by using the same genetic material that the disease is made from. There are also some bacteria that vaccines are effective against, but for the most part are used against DNA mutating diseases.

A disease enters the body and changes the cell's DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid, or otherwise called "the building blocks of life"). This infected cell then reproduces itself. The human body tries to fight this invasion by using white blood cells. Serious diseases such as polio, mumps, and especially AIDS, overcome our body's immune system and while there currently is not a vaccine for AIDS, the vaccinations for other diseases means that our immune system is equipped to handle the invasion. How does this happen?

A vaccine is a version of a specific disease. Take for example small pox. There was the terrible version of the small pox that ravaged the world, and there was a much milder version that infected cows. Jenner noticed that milkmaids and farmers who contracted the cowpox did not come down with small pox, even when exposed. He tested this theory on a child by injecting him with cowpox. Once the boy recovered, Jenner then exposed him to smallpox. The result was astounding to Jenner and the world. If a person were infected with a disease or a milder variety of disease, then the body built up immunity and would not be affected again.

Edward Jenner's discovery of vaccines and his work with small pox have changed the medical world as we know it. The world does not have to isolate itself any longer from other communities for fear of disease and possible death. Houses are no longer marked with signs of plague. The only recognizable sign of Jenner's battle is a shot record that shows what immunizations a child has received. There are still diseases that currently do not have a vaccination, but there will come a time in the future when even those are nothing more than a stamp on a card.

Page Updated: January 7, 2017
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