Vaccines have the potency to protect humans from serious diseases like pneumonia, chickenpox, meningitis, hepatitis, etc. These chronic infections can cause a lot of suffering and even lead to complication. Some viruses can even stay in dormant forms and cause chronic damage to the organs infected. For example, measles induced encephalitis, liver cirrhosis from hepatitis virus, etc.
Vaccines are so effective that, if given on time they can save lives.
They can also prevent the resurgence of the germ in a different form. E.g. the varicella vaccine given in childhood can prevent chicken pox in the child and can later protect him from the virus re-emerging as shingles in adulthood.
Shingles is caused when the dormant chickenpox virus gets re-activated in adulthood.
So, doctors often recommend a booster chickenpox vaccine in high dose for those who have already had chickenpox. This eliminates the risk of getting infected again.
Vaccination versus better hygiene
Improvements in health and hygiene of course help, but vaccination outweighs them all. Adequate availability of medical help and antibiotics has indeed reduced fatalities due to diseases. Vaccines, however, have a huge impact because after all prevention is better than cure. Thanks to these inventions, many of the infectious sicknesses have almost disappeared.
Some of the diseases which had deadly outcomes prior to the introduction of vaccines are –
- Small pox
- Whooping cough
- Tetanus, etc.
Introduction of toxoid vaccines ensured a dramatic drop in diphtheria affected cases.
On the other hand, a better hygiene is not that effective if there is no vaccination. Polio is one such example. Even though people maintained good hygiene, there was significant increase in polio which resulted in deaths. Many children suffered from paralysis and consequent death from Polio infections. After the introduction of vaccines, the disease was curtailed What about the recent complaints against vaccinations?
The past three decades have experienced an increase in the number of people developing autoimmune and allergic diseases. Although some people blame vaccines for this, there’s no strong evidence to support their claim.
Some people are allergic to a particular component of a vaccine, but this is also very rare.
Do vaccines have the same benefits during pregnancy?
Inactivated vaccines are safe to take during pregnancy.
The risks are as low as seen in normal population and the side effects are usually mild. It has not been established that vaccines have caused any birth defects. The inactivated vaccines if administered to a pregnant woman, keep the unborn baby and the mother safe from several infections, like influenza.
However, doctors strictly avoid recommending live weakened vaccines for pregnant women as there is a possibility of the live viruses getting transmitted into the foetus thus causing complications in the baby. Note that this has no evidence as well.
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Existing vaccines can be made more useful in the coming years!
There is a promising chance that the present vaccines can be modified and used in newer ways. For example, DNA vaccines may be soon developed. These will consist of a DNA coding for a particular antigen. DNA itself produces the antigen and generates an immune response.
Making vaccines more Effective
Technologies are being introduced to make vaccines more powerful. Vaccines are usually administered once often tend to fade away with age. So, it will be made more effective so that one can avoid taking multiple shots of the same. Plant based edible vaccines are still under research that will have lesser side effects and more benefits.