Definition: what is a vaccine?
A vaccination is a preventative measure that prepares the immune system in case of contact with an infectious disease. This is done by introducing a weakened form of pathogens into the body so that they stimulate the body’s natural defenses.
Vaccines are one of the most effective and cheapest precautions against these diseases according to the World Health Organization because it eradicates, or limits the number of infectious diseases and saves the lives of 2 million people in the world each year.
How does a vaccine work?
When infected by a pathogen, the white blood cells which circulate in our blood stream defend our body by studying all the possibilities for overcoming these invaders. They also create antibodies, “memory” cells which will remember how to act and defend the body if they encounter these same pathogens again.
During this period, the body is ill and shows typical symptoms of the disease in question. A vaccination is a way of kick starting this process by giving the immune system a weaker version of these pathogens so that they won’t really be affected in the future.
A vaccine contains weakened pathogens which couldn’t normally cause the disease to take effect. The body starts to destroy these infectious cells by producing the immune memory cells. This allows the body to learn how to defend itself against this specific pathogen. This is what is known as immunisation.
The compulsory vaccinations are:
- Vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus and poliomyelitis (DTP)
The first dose is given between 2 to 4 months and then a booster at 11 months. The following boosters (which are given at the ages of 6, 12, 25, 45 etc.) are recommended but not compulsory, except the vaccination against polio which is compulsory up until the age of 13.
- Vaccine against yellow fever for people who live in Guyana
Compulsory for everyone who is a resident of French Guyana.
The strongly recommended vaccines are
- the BCG/tuberculosis vaccine (for children who are at a higher risk)
Recommended from birth
- vaccines against whooping cough
Recommended at the age of 12
- MMR vaccines against rubella, mumps and measles
Recommended at the age of 12 with boosters at 16 and 18
- vaccines against smallpox
- vaccines against hepatitis A and hepatitis B
Recommended at 2 months old
- vaccines against the human papilloma virus, meningococcus or pneumococcus.