How do vaccines work?

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Prodgy Guidance - Immunisations, Childhood Vaccination Programme

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How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by preparing our bodies for infection so that we can quickly fight it without feeling ill. Vaccines are made in one of three ways:
  • By weakening the germ that causes the infection so that it does not cause the full disease
  • By killing the germ so that it cannot cause any symptoms
  • By extracting the parts of the germ that our immune system recognises (the antigen - see the section of this site about our immune system for more details)
When these treated germs enter our body, our immune system is able to respond as though they were the original disease-causing germs and get rid of them. But because they have been treated we don't actually get the illness. We discussed the memory that our immune system has in the immune system pages of this site. If we are later infected by the real germ, our immune system recognises it and gets rid of it before we develop any symptoms.

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Prodgy Guidance - Immunisations, Childhood Vaccination Programme

Date of Posting: 16/01/2003
Date of next Review: 15/01/2005

Related Questions:
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MeSH keywords:
Vaccination; Vaccines; Prevention and Control

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