Immunizations, also called vaccines, shots or vaccinations, are one of the most effective options for protecting infants, children, teenagers and adults of all ages from dangerous, even life-threatening, diseases. Vaccines greatly reduce the risk of being infected by certain diseases through building the body’s natural defenses.
When bacteria or viruses invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, and the infection causes illness. The immune system protects the body from harmful bacteria and viruses by recognizing the foreign infection and producing antibodies. Antibodies defend the body from current infection and then remain in the bloodstream as a defense should the disease ever invade the body again.
Through a vaccine, injecting a weakened or killed bacteria or virus into the body, the body’s immune system learns how to fight the disease and produces antibodies without the body getting sick. Immunity occurs when the body has built up a strong enough defense that it is able to resist infection from a specific disease. Immunity is important for two reasons: to protect yourself and to protect those around you.
Common side effects of vaccinations are minimal but include swelling at the site of the injection, soreness and fever. Discuss these side effects with your health care provider and ask what symptoms deserve an office call.