A Primer on the Types and Mechanism of Action of Modern Vaccines

A nurse holding a syringe

Prevention of diseases is the primary function of vaccines. Administering vaccines boosts the defense mechanism of the body, which fight invading microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria—carriers of potentially fatal disease.

How vaccines work

Vaccines carry small amounts of the bacteria, viruses, or toxins that cause disease. Instead, the presence of the foreign organisms triggers the natural ability of the body to fight the disease.

Specialized cells of the immune system interact with invading microbes. They battle it out on the microscopic level. The immunity cells recognize the surface markers that single out microbes. They can recognize harmful and harmless microbes, and respond accordingly to destroy the molecules that cause disease. The molecules that allow the body’s cells to identify microbes as foreign and harmful are called antigens.

Antibodies produced by the immune system deal with the antigens, and by the action of the latter the microbes cease to function. Certain defensive cells even engulf the microbe and digest them. The immune reaction involves memory cells, which can form an army when the body is exposed to the infective agent once again. A person who is vaccinated against a disease will already have memory cells that facilitate a quick defensive response upon re-exposure.

 Five main type of vaccines

There are five main types of vaccines used today.

Inactivated vaccines or attenuated vaccines were the first types of vaccines used, which utilized weakened organisms to facilitate an immune response without accompanying illness. Examples of this type are rabies and smallpox vaccines. Live, attenuated vaccines include MMR combined vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella), influenza, yellow fever, and rotavirus vaccines. Toxoid or inactivated toxin vaccines include tetanus and diphtheria, while on the Subunit vaccines list are hepatitis B, pneumococcal, meningococcal, and HPV (Human papillomavirus).

The immune system consists of different types of cells and body organs, which produce substances, or functions to fight off infection. Vaccines boost the immune response. A vaccination health center in Sandusky like Family Health Services only utilizes safe vaccines tested and proven to improve a person’s ability to fight disease-causing microorganisms.