April 24 to April 30 is celebrated as World Immunization Week every year. This is a global campaign to spread awareness regarding immunization and vaccines in public all around the world. World Immunization Week is observed by WHO (World Health Organization) .
Immunization or vaccination 💉 is what the world is talking about these days. With this pandemic 2020 situation, vaccines have again become so important. Scientists are working hard to come up with any possible cure for COVID-19 and establish immunity through vaccination.
Immunity, immunization, immune system and vaccines are discussed more often these days. People talk about building immunity, failure and success of vaccines. Let’s discuss these topics one by one.
What is Immunity?
We often come across this term. Immunity is an ability of an individual’s body to develop resistance against particular disease. We develop immunity by the presence of antibodies in our body.
Now the question arises, how we develop immunity. There are different ways we develop immunity.
1. Through Our Immune System: Vertebrates have special defense mechanism in their bodies that help them to fight against diseases. This is know as immune system. Immune system comprises of certain cells that secrete antibodies and help in eliminating the pathogen from the body. This immunity is referred as innate immune system and the individual inherits this since birth.
It is believed that when an individual is exposed to a pathogen through air, water or food, the body’s immune system helps to ward off the pathogen and the person develops immunity from that disease.
2. Through the placenta to the fetus: Some antibodies enter the fetus from the mother through placenta. This helps the fetus to fight from diseases right after delivery. Since this immune system is acquired from the mother, it is known as acquired or adaptive immune system.
3. Through Breast Milk: The breast milk contains some antibodies that help the infant to build immunity to some diseases. This is why new moms are encouraged to breastfeed their babies. This is also a type of acquired or adaptive immune system.
4. Through Immunization/ Vaccination: Vaccines are also helpful in obtaining immunity. Vaccines provide active immunity that is, life long immunity to certain pathogens. When an individual is vaccinated or immunized, the immune system is triggered, it recognizes the foreign body and develops antibodies against the pathogen. When the person encounters the same pathogen, for which he/she was vaccinated, the developed antibodies help in clearing off the pathogen from the body. In this way the body develops active immunity against the disease.
Vaccines do work. If not, most of the diseases that were deadly some years ago wouldn’t have been eradicated or prevalence of diseases wouldn’t have been decreased.
Instances to Prove That Vaccines Do Work
1. Eradication of Small Pox: Small pox is the first disease to be eradicated from the world. This was only possible through vaccine developed by Edward Jenner in 1796. This deadly disease was eradicated through worldwide vaccination strategy.
2. Polio: Polio is another deadly disease that causes paralysis in children up to 5 years of age. There are three strains of wild poliovirus that cause the disease. Type 2 and type 3 have been declared eradicated reducing the global incidence of the disease to 99%. All credit goes to worldwide vaccination strategy.
3. Tetanus: We have DTaP vaccine that provides immunity against tetanus. Tetanus, also known as lockjaw disease is a fatal disease caused by bacteria. Overall disease rate has decreased as more and more people are getting vaccinated.
4. Measles: Measles is a highly contagious disease caused by Rubeola virus. We have vaccines against measles, rubella and mumps known as MMR vaccine that provides protection against three diseases. Reports suggest that children who aren’t vaccinated develop infection and risk others.
There are other diseases too for which vaccines have been developed and mortality rate due to these diseases have decreased. For example: Tuberculosis, Mumps, Hepatitis A and B, Rubella, Chicken pox, Whooping cough, etc.
Some might argue that reduction in the occurrence of infectious disease are due to the enhancement in personal hygiene and sanitation all around the world. If this was true to any extent then COVID-19 wouldn’t have been a pandemic.
I agree that personal hygiene and sanitation are important for stopping the spread of infection, but these do not provide immunity to the body. These are just preventive measures that everyone of us must take.
Body attains immunity only when it is exposed to the pathogen and wins over the pathogen or through vaccination. Still there are ways, we can boost our immune system but it only provides passive immunity that does not last longer while immunity acquired through vaccines are active immunity and it provides life long immunity.
How can We Boost our Immune System?
There are ways that help to strengthen our immune system. Some of these are listed below:
1. Healthy diet: Eating diet rich in fruits and vegetables help in boosting immunity. Vitamin C contains food are real boosters of immune system. Green and leafy vegetables also boost immune system.
2. Physical Exercise: Exercising regularly helps the proper blood circulation in the body that keeps the cell oxygenated and keeps us healthy.
3. Drinking Alcohol in Moderation: If you consume alcohol, it is always advised to drink it in moderation.
4. Minimizing Stress: Stress weakens the body and a weak body is more prone to infection. So it’s always better to minimize stress by taking proper rest and sleep.
Many people also argue that they live in a free world so they have the right whether to get vaccinated or not. True, we all live in free world. We have the right to make decisions for ourselves. But we cannot risk others on the sake of our freedom. When the whole community is immunized against a disease, the whole community attains immunity. This is called herd immunity or community immunity. If anybody is left behind and is not vaccinated, herd immunity breaks and vulnerable people are at risk of infection.
In the present situation when people are demanding a new vaccine for COVID-19, we can’t ignore how important vaccines and vaccination are. If some people still doubt the benefits of vaccines and ask for evidences, this pandemic is the answer.