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Everything you need to know about vaccines

By Bupa Global Sponsored | 17 September 2020

Header image courtesy of Anna Shvets (via Pexels)

Brought to you by Bupa Global

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have regularly heard the term vaccine or vaccination in various instances. It is very common for people of all ages to register for and receive vaccinations for all sorts of diseases, viruses, and infections. However, there may be some misunderstandings of what a vaccine actually is, and what or how it is used for. We got Justin Hayde-West, pharmaceutical manager at Bupa UK, to explain the facts and science behind what a vaccine is and how it works.

Photo credit: Karolina Grabowska (Pexels)

First of all, what exactly is a vaccine and how does it work?

A vaccine is a medical substance that contains minute amounts of weakened bacteria or virus of a certain disease. Once your body comes into contact with the bacteria or virus, it will automatically produce antibodies in an attempt to fight off the disease. Your immune system will remember the antibodies that it’s produced, which means it is now equipped to fight future infections of the same pathogen by developing sufficient immunity to defend yourself from the disease.

You can also get vaccinated against multiple diseases at once, as some vaccines have more than one bacteria or virus in a single injection. This term is known as a “combined vaccination”. Some other vaccinations will require more than one dose in order to build up immunity, while other vaccines require you a revisit several years down the line to bring immunity levels back again.

Receiving more than one type of vaccine at a time is also safe and common, as your body is used to coming into contact with a lot of pathogens every day anyway. It will also minimise the number of vaccination and immunisation appointments you need to have—a win if you’re not a fan of needles!

After receiving vaccinations, you may experience some mild side-effects, such as sore arms, dizziness, and even a low-grade fever. This is normal and you needn’t worry too much as your body is trying to learn and better understand how to fight off the disease.

Photo credit: CDC (Unsplash)

Who should get a vaccine?

There are all sorts of vaccines out there to keep you and your loved ones safe and protected. When you are born, a series of vaccinations for common diseases should be given to you, and then even throughout your childhood. Additionally, there are other vaccines that are offered to specific groups of at-risk people as you get older. An example can be the flu vaccine, which is recommended as an annual immunisation for people with long-term health conditions, pregnant women, people with a poor immune system, or those aged 65 or over.

However, there may be cases where it might not be suitable for you to have a vaccine. If you have had an allergic reaction due to a past vaccination, it is recommended that you do not retake the same vaccine. Thankfully, your doctor or another medical health practitioner will be able to assist and let you know which vaccines are recommended for you personally. If you have missed out on a vaccination for whatever reason, you can always contact your doctor to book an appointment.

If you are thinking about travelling, there may be travel vaccinations you should get before you embark on the trip, to protect you from any local diseases that may be prevalent in your destination. A good way to know is to consult your doctor at least eight weeks before you intend to leave for more advice.

Photo credit: CDC (Unsplash)

Are vaccines safe?

From a doctor’s point of view, vaccines are a safe and effective way to defend yourself from pathogens and diseases. Through the media or online channels, you may have heard that vaccines are unsafe and can lead to various issues such as autism through MMR vaccines. However, medical evidence shows that the MMR vaccines do not cause autism.

Most vaccines go through extensive research, clinical trials, and stringent safety tests before they are approved and made available to the public for use. Even after they are made available, they are frequently monitored and reexamined by scientists and doctors to ensure that they have no problems.

Photo credit: CDC (Unsplash)

Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines are important as they save lives and keep communities safe, both locally and globally. According to the World Health Organisation, it is believed that approximately two to three million lives are saved every year due to vaccines.

People who are not vaccinated are at a much higher risk of coming down with a disease, which could be then passed on to others, leading to fatal consequences. This COVID-19 pandemic should be a sufficient reminder of how deadly an easily transmitted disease can be! It is vital for young children to be vaccinated early on, as they are exposed to many new germs daily while their immune systems aren’t fully developed yet, making them more susceptible.

Photo credit: Anna Shvets (Pexels)

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?

Currently, there is no vaccine that has been approved for extensive use against coronavirus yet. Vaccine development can take years, as it is very long and a tedious process. However, scientists and researchers have been working around the clock to develop a safe and effective vaccine.

There have already been 100,000 people who volunteered to participate in clinical trials to aid the develop of a COVID-19 cure. All we can say is, hang tight because there is a light at the end of the tunnel!

  • Q&A on vaccines. World Health Organization., 26 August 2019
  • Vaccines: The basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., last reviewed March 2012
  • Understanding how vaccines work. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention., last updated July 2018
  • Vaccines and immunological products. Patient., last edited 27 July 2016
  • NHS vaccinations and when to have them. NHS., last reviewed 30 July 2019
  • Public encouraged to register for COVID-19 vaccine trials as 100,000 already sign-up. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy., published 17 August 2020
  • Foreign travel checklist. Foreign and commonwealth office., last updated January 2019

Bupa Global

DISCLAIMER: This article was designed and produced by Bupa Global by searching internal and external data and information for information provision and reference purposes only. Any views or information mentioned and set out in this article/webpage is based on general situations. Readers should not regard them as medical advice or medical recommendations. Before making any decisions about the theme of this article, you are recommended to seek independent advice from suitable professionals (such as doctors, nutritionists, etc.). It is clearly stated that Bupa Global will not bear any responsibilities for others’ usage or interpretation of the information listed in this article. When preparing and/or updating this article, Bupa Global endeavours to ensure that the content is accurate, complete and updated but will not bear any responsibilities nor make any warranty or guarantee for the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of the information or for any claims and/or losses caused thereby.

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