How Do Vaccines Work?

Learn how the immune system works and how vaccines use immunity to prevent bad illnesses.

Rob Lamberts, MD
Episode #040

The Two Kinds of Vaccines

There are two main kinds of vaccines: ones that use weakened forms of the infectious agent and ones that just use proteins from the infectious agent. Vaccines made from the weakened forms are referred to as attenuated virus vaccines, and sometimes cause sickness in people with weakened immune systems. The majority of the vaccines, however, are the form made from proteins that coat the outside of the virus or bacteria.

Vaccine Controversy

The whole controversy about vaccines boils down to people thinking they cause more harm than good. Whenever I give a medication, vaccine, or any treatment for that matter, I compare the risk of giving the treatment versus the risk of not giving the treatment. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a clear grasp of either of these when it comes to vaccines. There are certainly some risks with anything we do--vaccines included--but in my personal experience, I think the risk of any of the vaccines I give is small compared to the potential benefit. I wouldn’t give it otherwise.

The Dangers of Not Vaccinating

Unfortunately, vaccines are hurt by their own success. Many of the diseases that vaccines can now prevent are so rare that people don’t take them seriously. The sad fact is that many of these diseases--which can be quite serious--are re-emerging with more people questioning the safety of vaccines. I am all for things being questioned--in fact, science demands we do so--but people should not assume that it’s safer to not give immunizations; doing so can not only increase risk of illness, but it can (and has) result in children dying from preventable diseases.

So, in future articles, I am going to discuss the diseases that vaccines prevent. Perhaps a clearer understanding of what is being prevented will make people think twice before withholding them.

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Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.


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About the Author

Rob Lamberts, MD
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