The current situation has given us a lot of food for thought. We are amidst a pandemic and now, more than ever, the need for developing and boosting immunity is being given paramount importance, especially among children.
What is immunity?
Immunity is the body’s way of fighting unwanted invaders. The first time one encounters an illness, the body may take several days to create all the tools needed to get over the infection. However, once the body has learnt all it has to about the infection, it memorizes how the body needs to be protected from that disease, if it were to attack again.
The body keeps a few T-lymphocytes, called memory cells, that go into action quickly if the body encounters the same germ again. When the familiar antigens are detected,
B-lymphocytes produce antibodies to attack them.1
How do vaccines contribute to immunity?
Vaccines activate the body’s immune system to respond to an infection. A weak or inactivated form of the infection is introduced into the body which is not powerful enough to infect the body but strong enough to trigger the body’s immune system to create antibodies against it. The memory cells from this exercise then help the body prepare for an attack from the disease in the future.
Reference: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/understanding-vacc-work.html, Accessed on June 25, 2020>
Why vaccines may need to be administered more than once
However, in some cases a single dose of the vaccine may not be enough. There are several reasons for why a vaccine may need to be administered multiple times.
Primary reasons are:
Reference: https://iapindia.org/pdf/124587-IAP-GUIDE-BOOK-ON-IMMUNIZATION-18-19.pdf, Accessed on June 25, 2020>
Thus, there are multiple reasons why a vaccine and its doses including boosters may need to be administered. It is important to remember that all of them, including the booster are equally important and help the body prepare better to fight impending infections.
Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis Vaccines and Boosters
The DTP vaccine offers protection against three potentially fatal diseases - diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. It has an extensive schedule with five doses being administered between 2 months to 5 years.
Reference: http://acvip.org/parents/columns/diphtheria.php, Accessed on June 25, 2020
It is important to talk about the booster doses that are recommended between 4-6 years of age, between 9-13 years of age and once every 10 years in adulthood. We have understood the role of vaccines and their boosters in developing all-round immunity against diseases. At the same time, studies have shown that while recommended vaccines are administered, drop-out rates for immunization are as high as 35% at pre-school age and 50% at adolescence. Skipping doses and boosters can result in reduced immunity and potential exposure to the disease.
Like we mentioned at the beginning of the article, immunity has taken center stage now and it is essential that we treat it with the importance it deserves.
It is understandable that visits to the hospital may not be at the top of the agenda unless absolutely essential but vaccinations, be they mandatory doses or boosters, need to feature on the essentials list.
https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/conversations/understanding-vacc-work.html, Accessed on June 25, 2020