Vaccination is administration of antigenic material such as killed or weakened pathogens in the body to activate the body’s immune mechanism. Vaccines are administered to protect the body from the risk of developing infections. Vaccinations done at the right time prevent morbidity from infectious diseases. Specific vaccinations protect the body from specific diseases by strengthening the defense mechanism of the body against the causative pathogen. A large number of dreadful diseases have been eradicated with right vaccination at the right time, e.g. small pox.
How Does a Vaccine Work?
Vaccines usually contain a small amount of the causative pathogen, but within an acceptable titre that is not harmful to the body. These are often killed viruses and bacteria. These pathogens when introduced into the human system triggers the defense mechanism and forms antibodies against the disease. It gets memorized by the system and when the body is exposed to the actual pathogen, the antibodies act up immediately and fight against the pathogens. As a result of which, the disease fail to develop within the body. Even if they develop, the symptoms are very mild.
Most of the vaccines are administered via needles. Some of the vaccines prevent only one disease, E.g. Shingles vaccination, whereas some vaccination helps in developing immunity against multiple disease conditions, E.g. MMR vaccination. Sometimes the vaccination may have to be given more than once, known as booster dosage, to rebuild the immunity, E.g. Tetanus vaccination.
Types of Vaccination
Vaccines are classified based of the content of the vaccine. They may contain live attenuated pathogens i.e., weakened pathogen that will not harm the body; killed or inactivated viruses; inactivated toxins i.e., toxins from the causative disease, but not the pathogens themselves or segments of the causative pathogen. Broadly they are classified as follows:
- Live/Attenuated Vaccine: Examples include MMR vaccines (Measles, mumps, rubella), varicella, influenza, rotavirus, zoster, yellow fever.
- Inactivated/Killed Vaccine: Polio, hepatitis A, rabies vaccines.
- Toxoid/Inactivated Toxin Vaccine: Diphtheria, tetanus vaccines.
- Subunit/Conjugate Vaccine: Hepatitis B, influenza, pertussis, pneumococcal, meningococcal, HPV vaccines.
Common Side Effects Post Vaccination
Most of the vaccines have the potential to evoke side effects in certain individuals; however, the most of these side effects are short lived and subsides within a few days. The most commonly encountered side effects include:
- Pain, redness and swelling over the site of the injection.
- Low-grade fever.
- Fatigue and generalized tiredness.
- Chills and shivers.
- Joint pain and muscle weakness.
- Anaphylactic reaction (rare cases).
Do’s and Don’ts of Vaccination
Do’s of Vaccination
- In cases of fever that develop post vaccination, it is advised to keep the patient as cool as possible and avoid layers of clothing and blankets. It is also advised to keep him/her adequately hydrated and give plenty of fluids.
- A small dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen can be given for the management of fever, body pain etc., that may develop after the vaccination; however, it should be given cautiously and as per the instruction given by an experienced physician.
- A cool washed cloth may be used for reducing the pain and soreness that may develop over the site of injection.
- In case of any abnormal reaction or anaphylactic reaction post vaccination, the patient should be immediately taken to the emergency room for further evaluation and management. All abnormal reactions should be reported to VAERS – Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. It is a government body that tracks reactions to vaccination.
- It is advised to follow a healthy diet for a few weeks prior to the scheduled vaccination. It is recommended to give whole-food to children and avoid processed food and refined sugar before receiving the vaccination.
- Do space out the vaccines and keep the vaccines apart from each other as much as possible.
- It is recommended to insist the nurse to remove the vials and load the injections in front of the patient or the guardian for surety.
- VacciShield may be given prior vaccination to enhance the effectiveness of the vaccine. Studies have showed that it boosts the immunity of the individual that aids in better effectiveness of the vaccination.
- It is advised to be careful while giving vaccination to children delivered via c-section and children who have not been adequately breast fed as their gut flora may be compromised.
- Do’s for Yearly Vaccination for Influenza: It is recommended to receive flu shot prior to the onset of flu season ever year. It is contraindicated only if the patient is on Rituximab. For patients above the age of 65 years, it is suggested to get a high-dose flu vaccine instead of the conventional flu shot.
- Do’s for Pertussis Booster: With the comeback of whooping cough, it is advised to get whooping cough booster done as per the suggested guidelines.
- Do’s for Prevnar 13 and Shingles Vaccination: Individuals above the age of 60 years are suggested to get pneumococcal vaccination and shingles vaccination done to reduce the risk of acquiring shingles and pneumonia at that age.
Don’ts of Vaccination
- Do not vaccinate infants and children when they are sick. It is advised to avoid live vaccination when the immune system is weak.
- Do not take analgesics or fever reducer before taking the vaccination as this may reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.
- Avoid any vaccination that elicited adverse reaction in the past.
- Avoid Zostavax and other live vaccine in individual who are on Tofacitinib and other biologics.
- Avoid vaccination such as influenza vaccination and pneumococcal vaccination in patients who are on Rituximab.
Vaccinations are very important to live a healthy life. Children are usually at an increased risk of getting diseases due to weak immune system. This can be effectively managed when proper vaccinations are given at right time. In addition, there are certain do’s and don’ts that one must follow to increase the effectiveness of the vaccines. These are very simple steps to be followed before and also after vaccination for getting the best benefits out of it.