Open access publishing combined with social media make it easy to create an effective argument on any topic of your choosing, through any perspective you prefer. This has been substantially proven with the argument about vaccines, an already controversial issue whose flames have been fanned with the pandemic of COVID-19 and the subsequent vaccine.
The entire virus is novel, never seen before and, therefore, the vaccine is an unknown entity, as well. Where things are unknown, fear dwells and spreads. Combine this human truth with the fact that most people don’t understand the science behind the way viruses and vaccines work, and you have a recipe for dissension and disaster. But when you break down how bodies and vaccines work, piece by piece, it helps each person to make an informed decision and dispel the spread of dangerous rumors.
What is a Vaccine?
We take medication regularly without putting much thought into it in order to treat diseases and conditions we already have. A vaccine takes this idea and makes it preventative. Vaccines prevent dangerous and deadly diseases, communicable or not, by working with our immune systems to increase their defense mechanisms.
The goal of a vaccine is to create a natural system in your body that provides long-lasting protection and immunity against the disease it is intended to fight. The vaccine ultimately generates antibodies that neutralize the microorganisms attacking your body. The protective cells in your immune system memorize the attackers, “recall” how they defeated them, and then respond quickly to the infection.
How Do Vaccines Work?
A lot of the controversy surrounding vaccines comes from a misunderstanding of how they work. They do imitate an infection, which confuses people into thinking they make the recipient of the vaccine sick. However, in reality, the percentage of people who do have an illness as a side effect after a vaccine is extremely low, and there are usually other underlying causes of that illness.
Vaccines imitate the infection they are attempting to mitigate by enabling the immune system to act. When your immune system steps up, it produces T-lymphocytes and antibodies that fight the attacking microorganisms, thus creating a memory later of how they defeated the intruders. Any time your immune system is activated, it’s possible for side effects like fever and swelling to occur. These are normal factors that come with the immunity-building components of the vaccine.
When someone does get sick after they have a shot, chances are they were in the process of it already. It takes weeks for the body to produce the lymphocytes necessary to fight a disease. You’re not protected immediately after the vaccine is received, and the level of protection and side effects depend on your body.
How the Body Responds to a Vaccine
No body is the same as another, therefore, how your body responds to a vaccine can’t be compared to other people. There are some key factors that can affect the way your body does accept or reject a vaccine, such as:
● The vaccine itself and how it is delivered into your body. Each vaccine typically combines the same type of components, but how they are combined to be effective can be different. Some are injections, too, while others could be nasal sprays. The form of the vaccine makes a difference.
● Your past medical history. If you already have had certain diseases or infections, they could help or hinder your body’s immune system response to the vaccine you receive. For instance, if you already have had chicken pox, and you’re exposed to shingles, your body’s immune system is going to already have a memory of how it treated the chicken pox. They’re two different diseases, but they act similarly. With the COVID-19 vaccine, if you have already had certain colds that are related to a coronavirus, you might have immune memory cells in place.
● Your immune system. Some people have diseases or conditions that reduce the effectiveness of their immune system. Vitamin deficiencies are one of the most common conditions that cause us to get sick quickly. If you are immunocompromised, your body will respond differently to the vaccine. Your lifestyle plays a major part in your immune system’s effectiveness. If you exercise and eat right, don’t smoke, drink excessively, or do drugs, you have a better chance at naturally fighting any diseases with a strong immune system. The vaccine will then enhance the way your immune system attacks any invaders.
● Your own genetics and the role they play in your immune system’s activity. Certain conditions are more common in males over females or vice versa, or those of specific races are more predisposed to the disease.
● Age and your current health status. As you get older, your immune system changes. Young children have a developing immune system, causing them to get sick more often. Older adults have a weakening immune system and we make less antibodies when our body is infected.
When comparing your potential reaction to that of someone else who received a vaccine, you should try to compare apples to apples. No one is the same as anyone else, but checking into these risk factors and how they are different between you and others can help you to make an informed decision as to whether you want a vaccine or not.