A vaccine is a form of medication that is intended to prevent a disease rather than cure or treat it. The medicine present in a vaccine is actually the germ itself that has been killed or weakened to the point that it does not cause illness. Rather, the vaccine causes the body to produce antibodies to defend itself against the disease as if the person actually has it. This creates a situation where the body is able to fight off the infection if it is ever exposed to the germ at a later time.
Types of Vaccines
There is a wide range of vaccines available to prevent specific diseases or a combination of diseases, ranging from chickenpox to hepatitis to measles. Doctors typically recommend that children receive a number of vaccines in early childhood, starting with a hepatitis vaccine at birth and continuing over the next couple of years. Some vaccines, like those for tetanus, will need to be given throughout life at regular intervals to continue to prevent infection (every 10 years in the case of tetanus). And the flu vaccine is recommended every year for most people to prevent getting that season’s strain of the flu virus. There are also vaccinations that are only recommended for the elderly, like for shingles.
Risks of Vaccines
Some parents have concerns about the vaccines that their children receive, particularly when some doctor visits require a baby getting three or four shots at once. Some people believe that vaccines increase the chances of a child developing autism. But many major health organizations have performed large studies and reviews in recent years and rejected any link between vaccines and autism. Vaccines are considered to be safe, and serious adverse side effects to vaccinations are very rare.
SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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