In these days all people around the world are talking about vaccines and their importance. But, what are vaccines and how do they work?

Vaccines can be considered the coaches of our immune system: they prepare our body to fight a disease without exposing it to its symptoms. Bacteria or viruses can enter our body accidentally while we are eating, running, or simply breathing or speaking. When these invaders enter our body, the immune cells, called lymphocytes, respond by producing antibodies, which are protein molecules. These antibodies fight the invader known as antigen and protect against further infection.  But, unfortunately, the first time the body faces a new bacteria or viruses, it can take several days before having an antibody response. In some cases, the infection can spread and cause pain and a lot of health problems to the person before the immune system creates a response.

How can we help the immune system to improve its function? We can guide the immune system through vaccines. Vaccines are a mixture of dead or weakened antigens, so they are not dangerous and aren’t able to cause an infection to our body. But, how do they work? When this mixture of antigens enters our body, the immune system considers them enemies and produces antibodies in response. And what happens after? When the threat is over, a lot of the antibodies weaken and what remains in our body are the so-called memory immune cells the preserve the information in our body. If the body, after the administration of the vaccine, encounters that antigen again, the memory cells produce immediately a response with the antibodies and attack the invader, protecting our body from infection. And what is the herd immunity? Since some people can’t be vaccinated because they have other health problems, they can be protected from infections thanks the sense of responsibility of the community they live: if all people around them is vaccinated, also they are protected from infections and diseases and probably they don’t get ill. 

In 1796 Edward Jenner discovered the smallpox vaccine: today, after more than three centuries from that important discovery, vaccination is considered one of the greatest medical discoveries, because it has improved people’s quality of life, avoiding health problems and even death.

At the end of 2019 a new virus threatens our lives: the coronavirus is responsible of a global pandemic:  it is causing sickness and dead. What are Coronaviruses? They are RNA viruses that, in humans, cause mild respiratory infections, in other cases, severe diseases, and in some cases also death. Fortunately today, thanks to the work of scientists and researchers a vaccine has been created in laboratories. It is able to prevent the coronavirus disease and on 27th December Europe started the vaccination campaign. We know that the vaccine is really the only weapon available to fight the virus and for this reason it is very important to get vaccinated.

This pandemic is teaching us the important rule of science and technology cover in our lives: this means that people should respect life, the world and involve young people studying and improve their knowledge for creating a better world.

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Mattia Pintagro




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