Vaccines – Antibodies That Protect Us From Diseases


Vaccines are substances that help the body fight off diseases and illnesses. In the past they have helped save millions of lives around the world.

Diseases are often caused by bacteria or viruses that attack the human body.  A vaccine is a dead or very weak form of such a virus. When you get a vaccination from your doctor the body it gets used to these weaker viruses and can produce antibodies which stay active for a long time. When the real virus or bacteria attack, the body becomes immune and can defend itself.

People can get their vaccinations in many forms.  Very often the vaccine is injected into your body, but vaccines are also taken by mouth or are inhaled.

Although many vaccines protect you throughout your life, some provide immunity for only a certain time.  Vaccines against the flu must be administered every year, because the flu virus can change or may appear in a different form.

Most people already have a certain amount of immunity in their bodies. It is passed to them from their mother. However, these antibodies do not protect a baby for a long time, so that many vaccines are given to infants in their first years.

Woman receiving vaccination in Brazil

Woman receiving vaccination in Brazil - Sandra Rugio


Some illnesses only occur in certain areas. If you travel, for example, to tropical regions, you should get vaccines to protect you from yellow fever, malaria or hepatitis.

Vaccines have saved the lives of millions of people in the past and virtually eradicated many diseases. Smallpox, for example, was once one of the world’s most serious diseases, which killed millions every year. By the end of the 1970s smallpox had disappeared completely because nearly everyone was vaccinated.

The first vaccines were created towards the end of the 18th century.  An English scientist, Edward Jenner, carried out experiments with cowpox, a milder form of smallpox. He found out that people who got cowpox rarely got ill from smallpox. In France, Louis Pasteur developed a weak form of rabies to protect people from dog bites.  In the 20th century polio has been wiped out completely.

Today there are vaccines for many illnesses. The most common are the flu, cholera, the plague , hepatitis.
Although vaccination is widely available and a part of the regular health program in almost all industrial countries, there are still countries, especially in the Third World where people die of serious diseases.  About three million children each year are killed by diseases that could have been prevented. In developing countries almost two thirds of all children are not vaccinated. The World Health Organization is fighting to provide vaccines for these children.




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  • administer = give
  • although = while
  • antibody = substance that your body produces to fight a disease
  • bacteria = very small living organisms, which can cause a disease or an illness
  • cause = reason for
  • century = a period of a hundred years
  • certain = special
  • certain amount = here: a little bit of
  • create = make
  • defend = protect
  • develop = grow
  • developing countries = poor countries in Africa and Asia
  • disappear = to go away completely
  • eradicate = to make something disappear; kill off
  • especially = above all
  • flu = common illness that makes you feel weak and tired; it gives you a sore throat, a runny nose and makes you cough  a lot
  • hepatitis = disease of the liver
  • however = but
  • immune = you cannot get a disease
  • immunity = being protected from a disease
  • infant = baby or very young child
  • inhale = to breathe in
  • occur = happen
  • plague = infectious disease that produces high fever and swollen spots on your body; it often leads to death
  • provide = give, offer
  • rabies = very dangerous disease that infects dogs and other animals; you can catch it if you are bitten by an infected animal
  • rarely = seldom; not very often
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a laboratory
  • serious = very dangerous
  • smallpox = a serious disease that can cause spots which leave marks on your skin
  • substance = material
  • throughout = in all of
  • vaccination = protection through a vaccine
  • virtually = practically, almost, nearly
  • virus = very small living things that can cause infectious illnesses
  • widely available = here: you can get it almost everywhere
  • wipe out = to make something go away completely
  • yellow fever = dangerous tropical disease that makes you skin turn yellow