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How do vaccines work?

Vaccines train your immune system to create antibodies, just as it does when it is exposed to a disease. When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds.

It:

  • recognises the invading germ, such as the virus or bacteria
  • produces antibodies. Antibodies are proteins produced naturally by the immune system to fight disease
  • remembers the disease and how to fight it. If you are then exposed to the germ in the future, your immune system can quickly destroy it before you become unwell.
  • However, because vaccines contain only killed or weakened forms of germs like viruses or bacteria, they do not cause the disease or put you at risk of its complications.

How are vaccines given to people?

Most vaccines are given by an injection, but some are given orally (by mouth) or sprayed into the nose.

Why is vaccination important?

Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent disease and save lives. When we get vaccinated, we do not just protect ourselves, but also those around us. Some people, like those who are seriously ill, are advised not to get certain vaccines – so they depend on the rest of us to get vaccinated and help reduce the spread of disease.