Vaccines and Your Immune System: What Effect Do Vaccines Have?
Captain Pavan Saxena is going to be an air force pilot. He is thoroughly enjoying defense flying school and is especially excited at the moment. Tomorrow, he’s going to fly his first actual aircraft. He is completely confident because he’s worked in a simulator before. Of course, it’s not the same thing, but Pavan feels prepared to tackle any odds that he might encounter up in the sky. He knows exactly how to handle strong winds, rain, hail, lightning, incoming attack, counter-attack, and even some system malfunctions.
All of us have actually undergone some sort of “simulation training”. Didn’t all of us (and our parents) have prelims before board exams? Many of us might even have had the luxury of mock job interviews before our first actual job interview.
Vaccines provide your immune system with what can be likened to simulation training. After a vaccine, just like Pavan, your body is geared to tackle the infection when it actually comes along. It is trained to fight.
Diseases like polio have been nearly completely eliminated across the world because of vaccination. In a lot of first-world countries, a flu shot – or a vaccine against common flu – in the summer is pretty much the norm. And of course, in today’s context, vaccination represents the big guns that the world has to fight Covid 19.
Your immune system
Let’s understand the army that is your immune system. It has three main groups
- Microphages – their job is to consume and do away with dead cells, dying cells, and also germs. Now when it tries to do away with germs, it cannot do so completely and the leftovers, called antigens, stay in your system.
Let’s look at them as the scouts or spies that go ahead of an army or alert the army about an impending attack.
- B-lymphocytes – their job is to defend the body. These are your immune systems soldiers and fighter jets. Instead of bullets, bombs, and grenades, however, they fight the antigens with antibodies.
So your antibodies are essentially the artillery.
- T-lymphocytes – their responsibility is to attack the cells in the body that have already been infected.
You could, perhaps, compare them to the army doctors caring for injured soldiers, amputating destroyed limbs, removing bullets, and so on.
From this, you might have noticed that the second two groups are only activated when there is an infection present.
In other words, they only jump into defense when the spies report an attack. But what if the enemy’s army is too strong or too numerous? What if it’s an enemy unlike one they have never seen before? One they do not (yet) have the right weapons for?
That’s exactly what happened in the early days of Covid-19 when the mortality rate of patients was very high. Our own internal armies lacked the strength and training to fight the stronger, faster – thoroughly unknown – army that was the Covid-19 virus.
Hence the need to provide these internal armies – our immune systems – with simulation training.
What happens to your immune system when you take a vaccine
When your immune system first encounters a germ it does its best to put B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes to work. It manufactures these as quickly as possible and remembers what it had learned on how to fight. The humane immune system is a wonder in itself; it is very intelligent.
Your immune system
- Retains some T-lymphocytes who jump into action as soon as a known infection is detected.
- Immediately produces B-lymphocytes – they go to war with the germ’s antigens to protect you.
However, the chances are that when a person encounters a germ for the first time, although the immune system rushes to the rescue, the virus might be faster. This is because the body still has to manufacture the tools.
A vaccine trains the body in advance by imitating an infection, or in other words, by simulation training! Once done, your body – like Captain Pavan Saxena – is geared to fight.
Why do people show symptoms after vaccination?
The body has no idea that it is being fooled/ trained. Your immune system jumps in to protect you as it does when you get any kind of infection.
If you didn’t already know, a fever is your body’s way of grounding you when it thinks you are not supplying it with the rest it needs. A fever essentially ties the patient to the bed and as a result, they have a chance to heal.
Since the vaccine imitates an infection, the body – or essentially the immune system – reacts as it would to a real infection and therefore you might develop a fever.
Why do some people still get the virus after the vaccine, especially immediately after
- Your body takes a few days to manufacture the tools it needs once the vaccine has begun its work of simulating or imitating the infection. As you can imagine Pavan’s training as a defense pilot probably took a few months.
- It is only natural that some people feel unleashed after finally getting the vaccine. They might go about without taking sufficient precautions.
- Vaccines train your body to fight the virus – they don’t kill the virus.
Why do some vaccines need two shots?
- In some vaccines, a higher amount of immunity can be built by adding a second shot. Maybe unlike Pavan, the immune system does not feel so confident after just 1 round of simulation training.
- In others, the immunity wears off in a few years, requiring a booster shot.
- Certain viruses and diseases might be such that different people attain different levels of immunity, some not as high as others. A second shot is intended to ensure that everyone is covered.
- Some vaccines – such as the flu vaccine that people in some countries take every summer – have to change every year depending on the flu-causing viruses doing the rounds.
Well, now you know exactly how your immune system gets geared to fight the actual infection when it receives a vaccine. Get vaccinated today to get your internal army trained and ready, should you encounter an actual war with Covid-19. You definitely want your immune system as well trained and rearing to go as Captain Pavan Saxena.