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Vaccination is the application of an antibody-producing substance to an individual’s body in order to stimulate its immunity against a particular disease causing organism. Vaccines have preventive and/or ameliorative effect on diseases. It is the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases. Vaccination has helped to eradicate or control a host of deadly infectious diseases such as small pox, poliomyelitis, measles and tetanus globally.

Vaccines usually contain immunogenic substances - substances that boost the immune system - as the active agent. This active agent is mostly a disease causing substance – a pathogen - which has been produced in an attenuated or non-infective form. This means that the substance retains its immunogenic properties but is shorn of its natural toxicity. The record of the W.H.O shows that licensed vaccines for about twenty-five disease causing pathogens are available.

The Historical Development of Vaccines and Vaccination

Vaccination and the related practice of inoculation differs considerably. Inoculation is the administration of the un-weakened pathogen into an individual with the intention of conferring adaptive immunity on that individual. The earliest known use of inoculation was by the Chinese in the 10th century. However, the earliest recorded application of vaccination was by the Chinese and Indians in the 17th century. Inoculation was known and practiced by the Ottoman Turks and the medical practice was introduced into Britain by Lady Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador to Istanbul around the early part of the 18th century.

The first vaccine ever to be produced was the small pox vaccine by Edward Jenner in 1796. Edward Jenner was a British physician. People noticed the fact that those who had previously suffered from the less contagious cow pox seemed to be immune to small pox. He carried out an experiment on a boy to confirm his observations. Two months later, he published a medical report on the causes and effects of the smallpox of the cow. This report was subsequently translated into some key languages leading to more than 100,000 people vaccinated by 1801.

Types of Vaccines

There are several types of vaccines according to their mode of production, administration and pharmacokinetics. The main types of vaccines include:

  1. An inactivated vaccine. The active pathogen is grown in a culture and then killed, for example, by the use of heat. It is manufactured in such a way that the protein coat is still intact, thereby enabling an immune response.
  2. Attenuated vaccines. This category of vaccines introduces low contagious pathogens to increase body immunity.
  3. Virus-like particle vaccines. These vaccines are made of viral proteins from viruses but do not possess the nucleic acid required for virulence
  4. Subunit vaccines. This category of vaccines introduces the right antigen to the body without the presence of the pathogen.