What is a vaccine?
Vaccines are biologically engineered substances that are used to prevent dangerous and even deadly diseases.
Different vaccines are made using different methods and different ingredients. For the most part, a vaccine will contain some part of the germ/microbe which that vaccine is fighting against. In some cases this is just a part of the microbe, sometimes it is a weakened version of the whole microbe, etc. For example, the measles vaccine contains a small amount of a weakened measles virus.
The contents of the vaccine are not harmful as they are either killed or weakened to the point that they cannot cause disease.
How do Vaccines work?
Vaccines work by mimicking the actual disease-causing germs but without making you sick like the real germ/microbe would. Exposing your body to this “fake” microbe (the vaccine) will stimulate your immune system to build defences to protect against future infections.
The immune system is the body’s way of preventing disease. Vaccines cause the immune system to produce antibodies against disease-causing germs before they can cause disease. These antibodies can work as a kind of memory - so that when/if you encounter that disease-causing germ, your body knows how to defend itself against it.
Vaccines are commonly used in babies and adults all around the world. When babies are born, their immune systems are not developed well and are at great risk for infections. Vaccines greatly reduce this risk by safely developing their immune systems.
Are Vaccines effective?
Vaccines are an amazingly effective method of preventing infectious diseases.
Vaccines have good evidence of eradicating and eliminating certain infectious germs that were known to cause severe diseases. In fact, one can appreciate a great increase in human life expectancy around the time vaccines were first invented.
Are Vaccines safe?
Vaccines can have mild side effects such as a low-grade fever that resolves on its own after a few days.
Severe side effects are extremely rare.
Vaccines undergo many safety tests before they are introduced to the population. They also have to be licensed by health authority boards for approval.
So yes, vaccines are safe to use.
The South African Vaccine schedule
The South African vaccine schedule is a list of recommended vaccinations by the South African government. The schedule also tells you when you should get each vaccine. View the SA vaccine schedule under the additional resources page. It can also be found in the “Road to Health booklet” that you can get at your clinic. It is important that a child is up to date with their vaccination schedule. If not, contact your nearest clinic for help.
What is herd immunity?
Herd immunity is indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large number of members of a community/population are immune to an infection, reducing the likelihood of infection of those not immune to infection.
It is a concept that explains how getting vaccinated can help protect others.