How do vaccines work? (Thinkstock)
How do vaccines work?
Lexile

You asked us, how do vaccines work? Well, vaccines are basically a stupendously brilliant way to train ourselves to fight some downright nasty, even deadly diseases.

Let me explain.

When we get sick from viruses or bacteria, our immune system creates weapons. They attack the invading germs. But every disease is a little different. So we need to develop unique ammo for each one.

And that can take time, which we don't always have. Some infections work fast and furious. They never really give us a chance to defend ourselves. The results can be deadly.

The genius of vaccines is that they get our bodies to prep defense strategies without us having to actually get sick. Many do it by carrying a weaker or dead version of the germ. Just enough to signal to our body to go on the attack. But not so much that an infection flares up.

Our immune system then remembers the strategy for each defense. That way if you ever come face to face with the real thing, we can get the upper hand by quickly pulling together a deadly strike force of our own.

Many vaccines provide lifelong protection. And though none is 100% effective, the more people in a population that get vaccinated the more we're able to control diseases.

Thanks to vaccines smallpox is a thing of the past.

Go science!

For more stories like this, check us out every day at smithsonian.com.

Go science, it's your birthday. Go science, it's your birthday.

Critical thinking challenge: Why can't our bodies always defend us from every disease?


Assigned 26 times


COMMENTS (4)
  • John0724-YYCA
    4/29/2015 - 07:16 p.m.

    I think that this article is very true because some doctors said this thing to me long time ago and I still remember it and when some people get sick, their doctors put the same bacteria that caused the person to be sick in their body. I have been wondering why hey do that and I thought that the doctors were trying get rid of people but they put the bacteria in so that the immune system could learn how to fight it so the next time the bacteria enters the body the immune system can fight it without any medication. Critical thinking challenge: Why can't our bodies always defend us from every disease? Answer: I think that the body cant's always defend us is because they n bacteria that enters are too powerful for our immune system and the immune system never encountered the bacteria before.

  • AbigailG-Kut
    5/07/2015 - 09:21 a.m.

    i think because god made our body body's the way they are. I think we cant fight all the disease in our body because we have to die some way. i think that if we really figure out the whole human body that we can figure out a way to cure alot of disease. i really think that we can be we dont have the strength to do so.

  • AbigailG-Kut
    5/07/2015 - 09:22 a.m.

    i think because god made our body body's the way they are. I think we cant fight all the disease in our body because we have to die some way. i think that if we really figure out the whole human body that we can figure out a way to cure alot of disease. i really think that we can be we dont have the strength to do so.

  • ChristianAcuna
    5/10/2015 - 04:02 p.m.

    Answer to critical thinking challenge: In my point of view, I think this phenomenon happens because we as human beings are different, that is why our bodies have different reactions, depending of our physical activities, genetics, things that we eat every day, and mainly our way of living. Maybe some of us are weaker than others and our organisms react in different ways. Another reason could be, that bacteria are always evolving and becoming more dangerous.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT