Vaccines: First line of defense

By Vicky Poplin Published:

August is Immunization Awareness Month and the Franklin County Health Department along with other medical providers have been busy immunizing the school children of Frankfort and Franklin County.  

What is immunity?
When germs enter your body, they start to reproduce. Your immune system recognizes these germs as foreign invaders and responds by making proteins called antibodies. Their first job is to help destroy the germs that are making you sick. They can’t act fast enough to prevent you from becoming sick, but by eliminating the attacking germs, antibodies help you to get well. 

The second job is to protect you from future infections. They remain in your bloodstream, and if the same germs ever try to infect you again —even after many years — they will come to your defense.

Only now that they are experienced at fighting these particular germs, they can destroy them before they have a chance to make you sick. This is immunity. It is why most people get diseases like measles or chickenpox only once, even though they might be exposed many times during their life. 

Vaccines to
the rescue

Vaccines offer a solution to this problem. They help you develop immunity without getting sick first. Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease. For example, polio vaccine is made from polio virus.

But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won’t make you sick.

Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body, usually by injection. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine the same as it would if the disease was invading it — by making antibodies.

The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs, something like a “training exercise.” Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.

Vaccines are safe
The long-standing vaccine safety system in the United States ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible. In fact, currently, the U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history.

Safety monitoring begins with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency ensures the safety, effectiveness, and availability of vaccines for the country.

Before a vaccine is approved by the FDA for use by the public, results of studies on safety and effectiveness of the vaccine are evaluated by highly trained FDA scientists and doctors. FDA also inspects the sites where vaccines are made to make sure they follow strict manufacturing guidelines. 

It is important to monitor vaccine safety since they are held to the highest standard of safety. The United States currently has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in history. Law requires years of testing before a vaccine can be licensed. Once in use, vaccines are continually monitored for safety and efficacy.

FCHD offers immunizations to Franklin County residents who are both uninsured and underinsured. We currently offer the Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) or whooping cough shot and Hepatitis B for all adults regardless of insurance at a much discounted rate.

This is made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of the high rate of pertussis and Hepatitis B in the country.

If you need an appointment or just have questions regarding immunization needs, call the FCHD at 502-564-7647, option 1 for the clinic, or your primary care physician.

Vicky Poplin is a Local Health Nurse II, Immunization Program Manager, at the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Road.

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