How Do Vaccines Work

A health care professional vaccinating a person against a virus.

It has become common knowledge that the only way to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is widespread vaccination against the virus. Pharma companies like Pfizer are releasing their versions to eliminate the transmission as quickly as possible.

More than two centuries, when smallpox was in the air, Dr. Edward Jenner treated a boy by injecting him with pus from cowpox blisters that contained the vaccinia virus. This was the virus that causes smallpox which led to immunization against smallpox. This effective treatment came led the way for later vaccine developments.

Here’s everything you need to know about vaccines and how they work:

What is a Vaccine?

Before learning the science behind how vaccines work, let’s begin by understanding the basics of a vaccine. It is a form of medical treatment used to prevent diseases. Vaccines are made through several different processes, and some even contain live viruses altered to prevent the spread of the illness.


Immune Response

The human body develops several defense mechanisms to respond to disease-causing organisms surrounding us, including bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. The white blood cells are triggered to create antibodies (proteins), which help track down the bacteria and destroy them. After the virus or bacteria is dealt with, some antibodies are still present in the blood; this is when your body produces memory cells. If the virus or bacteria enter your body again, the immune response will be faster and more effective.

A doctor checking holding a vaccine

How Do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines work based on the mechanism of memory cells. They enter your body and imitate an infection (fake infection) to help develop immunity. This means more antibodies and T-lymphocytes will be produced. You might experience mild fever during this time, but this is only until your body develops immunity. Once the infection is dealt with, the memory cells produced will recall how to fight that infection in the future.


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