The word “vaccination” was first used by Edward Jenner in 1796. Louis Pasteur furthered the concept through his ground-breaking work in microbiology. In common speech, ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunisation’ have the same meaning.
Historically, infectious diseases have been a major cause of illness, and in many cases leading to disability or death. To this effect, immunisation programs are one of the great public health successes of the 20th century. It has prevented disease, disability and death from infants to senior citizens. Vaccination protects us against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).
How does it work?
Your immune system helps your body fight germs by producing antibodies to combat them. Once the antibodies are formed, the immune system “remembers” the germ and can fight it again. Vaccines contain germs that have been killed or weakened and when given to a healthy person, the vaccine triggers the immune system to respond and thus build immunity.
Immunisation is of the most successful and cost effective methods of preventing infectious diseases. Through immunisation, smallpox and polio have been almost eradicated from the western hemisphere, and cases of measles have been reduced by over 95%.
Immunisation prevents between 2 and 3 million deaths per year but ironically the fact that immunisation has made many infectious diseases rare can lead to the opinion among parents and health professionals that immunisation is no longer necessary. Due to gaps in vaccination coverage, diseases like diphtheria, measles and polio are making a comeback. Remember disease outbreaks affect everyone.
Vaccines are available at local state clinics and hospitals.
For more information please contact your family practitioner.
This article was supplied by Dr. A.M. Bux (General Practitioner)