How do vaccines work?Updated: May 21st, 2021
The World Health Organization has a lot of information available about how vaccines work to protect us from disease-causing organisms, called pathogens.
The body has its own natural defenses against pathogens, like skin, mucus, and very small hairs called cilia. But when a pathogen does infect the body, our defense system — our immune system — kicks into action and attacks the pathogen.
Vaccines can help strengthen our immune system’s response, because vaccines contain weakened or inactive parts of an organism (antigen) that triggers the immune system to respond. Newer vaccines (like the COVID-19 vaccines) contain the blueprint for producing antigens, rather than the antigen itself.
When people get vaccinated, they’re then very likely to be protected against the disease. Not only that, but if enough people get vaccinated against a disease, then that disease can’t circulate, and that also protests people who are unable to get vaccinated — like those with underlying health conditions or with severe allergies.
You can find out a lot more about the science behind vaccines via the World Health Organization. It also has a whole series of articles explaining COVID-19 vaccines, from safety and side effects, to how variants affect vaccines.
Dr Kottkamp is part of the Ad Council’s It’s Up To You campaign. View more facts at GetVaccineAnswers.org