Vaccines: Tools to Train Your Body
Every day your body is in contact with thousands of bugs – bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. They coat your skin, line your intestinal tract and are inhaled with every breath. In fact your body is more bug than human. Some estimates are that for every human cell in your body, there are 10 bacterial cells!
Most of these bugs don’t affect you at all. Some are there for a little bit and leave without you being aware of them. Some of them stay with you indefinitely and live in harmony with your body. Surprisingly, some are very beneficial to you. Bacteria living in your gut help your body break down certain carbohydrates, produce vitamins and help stop harmful bacteria from growing.
Occasionally though your body will meet a harmful bug. These bugs will invade your body, grow in and destroy your cells and cause a range of diseases and symptoms.
Luckily, you have an immune system whose job it is to protect your body from harmful bugs.
Many people compare the immune system to an army. The immune system patrols the body looking for harmful bugs. When an “invader” is found, the immune system will fight back. First the immune system will fight back with a first line of defense that is generally effective against a variety of bugs. An example of this is raising your temperature and causing a fever. Many bugs cannot grow well at higher temperatures.
While this initial fight is going on, the body is also developing a second line of defense that is specific for each type of bug. A smart weapon, of sorts. For each new bug you fight, your body will make an individual weapon. This does take some time though. If things go well, this second line of defense will rid your body of the bug before it does too much damage to your body.
The great thing about this second line of defense is that it will always remember the bug. If the bug infects your body again, your body will be able to fight back quicker because it already has the right weapons. Most of the time your body will be able to fight the bug off with you hardly knowing a battle is going on!
A vaccine trains your body to recognize and fight a specific bug.
There are different types of vaccines. Some are very weak bugs that can no longer make you sick (such as the measles vaccine), others are killed bugs that can no longer infect you (polio vaccine) or they can be pieces of bugs (Hepatitis B vaccine ). They are given to you in a controlled fashion so your immune system can fight against them and develop the second line of defense, but they cannot cause damage to your body.
If your body sees the bugs again, it will quickly be able to defend itself and prevent you from getting sick.