Vaccines are simply a way to boost your body’s natural immune system. When a virus, bacterium, or other foreign agent enters your body, your immune system jumps into action and sends healing properties to attack the invader, kill it, and remove it so you don’t get sick or infected.
And once it interacts with a certain type of pathogen, your immune system builds up antibodies and stores them so it’s ready to mount an attack quickly the next time it encounters that particular invader. Your immune system remembers.
But if a new virus comes along that your immune system has never met, or if the pathogen is so strong it overwhelms your system before it can rally to the fight, the pathogen wins and you get sick.
Vaccines stand in the gap when this happens. They give you a tiny dose of the disease, but not enough to get you sick. Vaccines introduce your immune system to the virus so it can get to know it and, of course, generate those essential antibodies for future use.
Dr. Bhavani Jeereddy at Kenilworth Primary Care is passionate about the importance of vaccinations for her patients’ individual health and for the essential role they play in public health. Here, she answers some of the questions patients ask her most often.
Vaccinations not only protect you or your child from disease, but they also work toward eradicating the disease altogether. When the disease can longer take hold because everyone has been vaccinated (this is called herd immunity), the disease disappears, as smallpox did.
But as long as a disease still appears, even in rare cases, it could take hold and become an epidemic.
Are there side effects with vaccines?
Serious side effects to vaccinations are very rare, but if you do have a reaction that concerns you, call us right away.
The majority of people experience nothing more than slight soreness at the site of the injection and possibly a low fever. Babies and children may seem fussy for a while, but all of these reactions subside quickly within 24-48 hours.
Why do babies need vaccinations?
Although babies are born with a certain level of natural immunity, they are only immune to what the mother is immune to. Even breastfed babies who get an extended grace period of protection from minor infections need vaccinations because they are still vulnerable to life-threatening diseases.
When does my child need vaccinations?
The vaccination schedule set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protects your child from birth through age six. A few vaccinations come in a series rather than a one-time shot in order to build up an effective level of immunity. While some vaccinations last a lifetime, others wear off over time and need boosters during adolescence.
Do adults need vaccines?
If you weren’t vaccinated according to the CDC’s schedule as a child, you may need to fill those gaps as an adult. Dr. Jeereddy can review your records and let you know if you’re missing any shots and help you complete your vaccinations.
If you plan to travel internationally, it’s critical all your vaccinations are up to date according to US standards, but it’s also imperative you get the vaccines required in the country you plan to visit.
It’s best to take care of this at least a month before you go so you have time to get all the shots and your body can build up proper immunity. For example, a yellow fever vaccination must be given at least 10 days before you travel.
What diseases do vaccines protect against?
Polio and smallpox are two diseases that have been wiped out thanks to vaccines. Today’s shots are working hard to do the same thing to some diseases that are still present, but waning, including:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Whooping cough
All of these diseases have the potential to become life-threatening if your body isn’t equipped to fight them off.
If you have more questions about vaccinations, book an appointment by phone or online to talk with Dr. Jeereddy and discuss your concerns or to find out if you and your family are up to date on all your vaccinations. We also have telehealth appointments available, so you can meet with Dr. Jeereddy from the comfort of your own home if you prefer.