Immunization or vaccination. We do not pay enough attention to it. Or we take it for granted. Sometimes we forget that a simple vaccine can save lives, that an individual who gets vaccinated also protects the whole community. Remind us of the importance of vaccination, eradicate some of the myths on vaccination… Those were some of the aims of the talk organized by Fortis Clinique Darné on the 28th April 2017. The speaker was Dr Vinod Blakrishnan, general practitioner at Fortis Clinique Darné.
What is vaccination to you? Just another formality? A hassle? Vaccination. You probably remember being a child afraid of needles, crying and stomping around so as not to get vaccinated. Your parents and the nurse must have told you that it was necessary, that it was for your well-being. What they probably did not tell you though, was that this small injection could be saving your life. Vaccination saves lives. 2 to 3 billion deaths are prevented each year in the world with vaccination. An additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global vaccination coverage improves. Because even today, not everyone has access to immunization. About 19.4 million infants worldwide are still missing out on basic vaccines due the socio-economic status or location of certain countries.
How does immunization work?
Immunization: the process by which a person is made immune to an infectious disease. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system and is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating deadly infectious diseases. There are several types of vaccines, the commonest ones being the live, inactivated, subunit and toxoid vaccines.
Live vaccines are created by taking a live microbe, inactivating and emptying it before introducing it into the patient’s body. The microbe is not strong enough to cause the disease but it stirs a much stronger response from the immune system. Often, one dose is enough to provide lifelong immunity.
Inactivated vaccines are created by killing a microbe with chemicals or heat. Because the microbe is dead, they elicit a much weaker response from the system. Several doses might therefore be needed.
Subunit vaccines; instead of the entire microbe, subunit vaccines include only the microbe’s antigens that best stimulate the immune system.
Toxoid vaccines (the most common one here being the Tetanus vaccine) provide immunity against toxins produced by certain bacteria.
It is important to note that all licensed vaccines undergo rigorous testing before entering the market. They are constantly monitored by scientists; if a side effect is reported, it is immediately investigated. Vaccines are safe, even combined vaccines are completely safe. Combined vaccines (example: measles, mumps and rubella) are effective, save time and limit the discomfort of the child.
When it comes to diseases like the flu, it is important to do the vaccine every year. Because the virus used in the vaccine is not a live virus but also because this particular virus changes its architecture every year.
Why get vaccinated?
We know the importance of vaccination; vaccination protects the individual from deadly diseases ; it saves lives, it prevents suffering. But vaccination is not just about the individual. An individual interacts with others ; when he gets vaccinated he is also protecting his friends, relatives... One sick person can infect countless other people, a vaccinated person can help create a disease-free community. Immunization also limits antibiotic resistance ; since patients are vaccinated, bacteria do not get the opportunity to mutate. Immunization is a crucial step towards a safe and healthy society. The vaccines are there, the facilities are there (there are licensed vaccination centers like Fortis Clinique Darné) ; people just need to be aware & make the most of the services available.
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