A vaccine is a very important way through which you can make sure that your body is protected against certain infections.
An infection happens when harmful germs like bacteria and viruses enter your body and make you ill. This happens when germs attack your immune system – the parts of your body that normally work to keep you healthy.
When you get a vaccine, it teaches your body’s immune system how to fight off germs BEFORE you get sick. This is unlike medicine which only helps your body get better after you are already infected and ill.
Furthermore, vaccines also make sure that not only do you protect yourself, but you also keep other people protected from diseases that you otherwise might contract.
Each kind of possible infection, has its own kind of vaccine. Therefore it is important to ensure that you – and especially your children – are given all of the vaccinations available.
A vaccine is usually given by injection. Often medical experts put together a number of vaccines into one injection, so that the process is easier and quicker.
Vaccines cannot offer 100 percent protection but they are extremely successful in stopping you from getting very serious illnesses. Ultimately, they can save your life.
For example, the use of vaccines has managed to eliminate smallpox, which in the past was deadly. It has almost completely stamped out other serious illnesses like polio, measles and tetanus.
According to the World Health Organisation, vaccines prevented approximately 10 million deaths between 2010 and 2015.
Vaccines are very safe. There are some side effects but these are not very serious – especially compared to getting the illnesses from which they protect you. For example, before a vaccine for measles was invented, this illness caused about half of all childhood deaths.
Some people have claimed that vaccines can cause autism. There was a medical study that said this; however, it has been proven that this was not true. Other studies show there to be no link at all.
Vaccines are carefully tested before they are used – and medical experts are constantly checking them and making them better. Doctors suggest that the benefits of having a vaccine are far more important than any risks.
Side effects might include mild pain or fever, headaches or a rash. Children might also experience similar side effects but these conditions should go away within a day or two.
In a few cases, people can have an allergic reaction. However, as long as there are health care workers, such as doctors or nurses, with you when you are getting the injection, they will be able to help you.
There is a set schedule to follow as to when your baby should get a certain vaccine. In South Africa, you can have your baby immunised at state clinics and hospitals. It is a free service. There are some extra vaccines that you can also have done privately through a doctor or private hospital.
For certain vaccines, your child will need to have boosters. This means that at a different time, they will need to have more injections. This helps to make the protection against the illness stronger and more long-lasting.
If you were not vaccinated as a child, it is not too late. If you visit a doctor or clinic they can put together a schedule of which vaccines you should get and when you should get them.
Furthermore, illnesses like the flu are constantly changing; therefore it is a good idea to get an updated vaccine for this.
Also remember that if you travel to certain countries, you need to get certain vaccines. Ask your doctor for more information about this.
If you or your child suffer from certain health conditions, you must check with a doctor before having vaccines. These conditions include diabetes, diseases affecting your heart, liver, lungs or kidney, or having an illness that can weaken your immune system such as HIV/AIDS or cancer.