Fascination for Vaccination

06 November 2018


Vaccination

When it comes to receiving vaccines, there has been some discussion regarding this lately. Whether you open up a newspaper or turn on the TV, vaccines are the topic. The discussion is regarding the choice everybody has to make if they will receive the vaccines or not. A striking phenomenon; a former opinion-less subject, which divides the population into two camps. However, do we all know what a vaccine is and what it is for? To understand why this discussion is taking place in our current society, the knowledge about vaccination itself is required.

What is a vaccine and how does it work?

Unlike most medicine that treat or cure diseases, vaccines prevent them. The immune system is a specialised network of organs, cells, and tissues that all work together to help protect you against diseases. When a disease-causing germ (for example, a virus or bacteria) enters your body, your immune system:

  • Recognises the germ as being foreign
  • Responds by making special proteins (antibodies) that help destroy the germ.
  • Remembers the germ that made you sick and how to destroy it. That way, if you are ever exposed to the same disease germ in the future, your immune system can quickly destroy it before it has the chance to make you sick. This is called immunity. In the process of becoming immune to certain viruses, a harmless, inactivated form of pathogen is used to stimulate the primary antibody response. When the real pathogen is met, there is a pre-existing immunity and the secondary response can be invoked to boost the level of immunity very quickly.

How are vaccines made?

 The first step is the production of the antigen used to induce an immune response. This includes the growth and harvesting of the pathogen itself or production of a recombinant protein derived from that pathogen

The seconds step is to release the antigen from the cells and isolate it from the material used in its growth. The goal of this stage is to release as much virus or bacteria as possible.

The third step is the purification of the antigen. For vaccines that are made from recombinant proteins, this may involve chromatography and ultrafiltration.

The fourth step may be the addition of an adjuvant, which is a substance that enhances immune responses.

The final step combines all components that make up the final vaccine and uniformly mixes them all in a single vessel. Then the vaccine is filed into vial or syringe packages, sealed with sterile stoppers and labelled for widespread distribution. This whole process can take up to two years.

Global vaccine stockpiles, in which vaccines are reserved for use when needed for emergencies or supply shortages, have effectively provided countries with the capacity for rapid response to emergency situations, such as outbreaks of yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis. The high cost and insufficient supply of many vaccines have encouraged a discussion on the expansion of the use of vaccine stockpiles to address a wider range of emerging and re-emerging diseases. However, the decision to establish and maintain a vaccine stockpile is complex and must take account of disease and vaccine characteristics, stockpile management, funding, and ethical concerns, such as equity.

What is the discussion all about?

People have different opinions regarding the option to vaccine or not vaccine themselves and their children. The intention to delay or avoid vaccines that are recommended by the government can be described as “vaccine hesitancy.” There is a broad range of factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy. Such as, the compulsory nature of vaccines, their coincidental temporal relationships to adverse health outcomes, unfamiliarity with vaccine-preventable diseases, and lack of trust in corporations and public health agencies. While complete refusal of all vaccines is uncommon, hesitancy is seen on a regular basis in most primary care offices, resulting in immunisation postponement and prolonged defencelessness to preventable disease.

The consequence of vaccine hesitancy includes the potential for resurgence of vaccine preventable infections. While many experienced doctors are able to explain the importance of vaccines in an intuitive manner, others may benefit from developing a systemic framework for such discussions. An understanding of the history and rationale for vaccine hesitancy is a first step in regaining lost public confidence in the robust immunisation programs.

Vaccines are among the most effective prevention tools available to clinicians. However, the success of an immunisation program depends on high rates of acceptance and coverage (carrying capacity of a vaccine). Public health personnel should recognise the potential effect of outbreaks in their communities, and parents should be made aware of the risks involved in not vaccinating their children.

Now what?

To conclude, successful vaccine strategies include empirical efforts to screen, identify appropriate stabilisers, environmental conditions, more rational approaches toward developing, understanding of the causes, mechanisms of vaccines and vaccine hesitancy.

The potential of vaccines to prevent illness and save lives has never been greater. Yet, that potential is directly dependent on parental acceptance of vaccines, which requires confidence in vaccines, healthcare providers who recommend and administer vaccines, and the systems to make sure vaccines are safe. As Dutch people like to say: “Preventing is better than healing.”


This blog was written by Lettie Steur, Associate | Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical Industry. Lettie, thank you for sharing your knowledge and opinion about the discussion on vaccination!
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