What Are Vaccines and How Do They Work?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), vaccines can greatly reduce the body’s risk of infection by bolstering its natural defenses to help build immunity. The result is the prevention of dangerous and even deadly diseases.
How the Body Fights Disease
When viruses and bacteria invade the body, they multiply. This invasion or, in other words, infection is what causes illness. The body’s own white blood cells, primarily consisting of macrophages, B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes, naturally fight infection.
Macrophages contribute to the body’s fight against infection by digesting germs and dying or dead cells, leaving behind only the antigen portion of invading germs. The body can then identify those antigens as a threat and its antibodies can then work to destroy them.
B-lymphocytes produce the antibodies that attack those dangerous antigens; and T-lymphocytes are also defensive in nature, but work toward fighting and eliminating already infected cells.
The first time a body encounters a specific virus or other germ, it may take several days to identify and effectively eradicate the infection. If that same germ is encountered in the future, the body has already become familiar with it and can more easily raise its defenses against it. So the entire germ-fighting process will be more effective and immediate.
How the Body Works in Tandem with Vaccines
Ok, now let’s introduce a vaccine into this scenario. The premise behind vaccines is that they imitate infection, thereby helping the body recognize and develop immunity against that particular infection. When a vaccine is administered, the immunity created by that vaccine can take a few weeks; and minor symptoms may be experienced by the recipient as the vaccine acclimates itself within the body.
The Types of Vaccines
There are several types of vaccines, each differing to better accommodate varying types of infections, environments, geography, risk, etc. The five main types of vaccines are live vaccines, inactivated vaccines, toxoid vaccines, subunit vaccines and conjugate vaccines.
Live vaccines fight germs with a variation of the living virus or bacteria that is weak enough so as not to infect a healthy individual. Since live vaccines are the closest thing to the actual virus or bacteria, they are often very effective. However, certain individuals, including the immunocompromised, cannot physically tolerate live vaccines.
Inactivated vaccines are created by inactivating or killing the virus. Multiple doses of this type of vaccine may be required to build up and maintain immunity. The polio vaccine is an example of an inactivated vaccine.
Toxoid vaccines prevent disease by weakening the toxins caused by bacteria. The tetanus vaccine is an example of a toxoid vaccine.
Subunit vaccines use only subunits or portions of the germ, as opposed to the entire germ, to fight infection. The whooping cough vaccine is an example of a subunit vaccine.
Conjugate vaccines fight bacteria by helping the body recognize antigens that are disguised by an outer coating. Conjugate vaccines are very effective in immature immune systems.
How Are Vaccines Developed?
Vaccine development is typically a long and arduous process. Exploratory research is conducted, usually over the course of several years, to identify antigens. Then the safety and efficacy testing begins.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, through various phases of clinical testing, is required. This is where clinical trials come into play. Phase 1 consists of blind studies of small groups. Phase 2 tests safety, dosages and delivery methods on larger groups. Phase 3 involves controlled, blind studies on thousands of people.
There are regulatory reviews and approvals needed, including the production inspection and monitoring of potency, safety and purity. Then there is continual inspection to ensure that manufacturing consistently meets regulatory requirements. Quality control also continues long after vaccines are made available to the public and includes tracking as well as performance reviews of safety and efficacy.
Where Do We Go from Here?
Although vaccines are a remarkable medical tool to promote healthy living, there is a school of thought that considers natural immunity acquired by the disease itself better than immunity which can be gained through vaccination. However, with certain diseases, it is impossible to predict who may be more likely to fall prey and how severely the affects or harm may be. Consequently, this line of thinking can be a very dangerous and even deadly one.
Vaccine research has revolutionized disease prevention. Clinical research and the findings that are uncovered within the clinical trial process are vital to the continual discovery and advancement of vaccines.
The professionals at Velocity Clinical Research are committed to this admirable effort, working diligently today to enhance lives through improved medical outcomes tomorrow. The doctors and experienced research professionals at the Velocity Clinical Research facility work closely with clinical trial volunteers to monitor and assess the benefits, effectiveness and safety of vaccines. Velocity Clinical Research is conveniently located at 1410 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Edgewater and can support up to 26 in-house patients and a large number of outpatients.
If you are interested in playing a crucial role in the valiant efforts to help fight disease by becoming a clinical research volunteer, you can contact Velocity Clinical Research. For more information, call 386-428-7730 Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Friday from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m.