Immunisation is a way of protecting against serious diseases. Once we have been immunised, our bodies are better able to fight these diseases if we come into contact with them.
Benefits for you
As children develop they are exposed to many risks, one of these risks being infections. Most of these will cause mild illnesses. However, despite great medical advances, infection can still cause severe illness, disability and, at times, death. Before vaccines were available, many children in the UK died from diseases such as whooping cough, measles and polio. Despite successful immunisation programmes, the diseases that vaccines protect against do still exist. The benefit of immunisation is that your child has the best possible protection against dangerous diseases. This can give you peace of mind.
Benefits for us all
When your child is immunised they are helping to protect the health of the whole community. When enough people are immunised against an infection, it is more difficult for it to be spread to those who are not immunised. This is called 'herd immunity' or 'population protection'.
How vaccines work
Vaccines contain either a greatly weakened form of the bacterium or virus that causes a disease, or a small part of it. When the body detects the contents of the vaccine its immune system will be primed to make the antibodies (substances that fight off infection and disease) required to fight off the infection. If your child comes into contact with the infection, the immune system will recognise it and be ready to protect him or her by producing the right antibodies. Because vaccines have been used so successfully in the UK, diseases such as diphtheria have almost disappeared from this country.