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What is a vaccine? How does it work?

A vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect your body from future exposure to a virus or bacteria that causes a particular illness. When you get a vaccine, an inactivated form of bacteria or virus is injected into your body to mimic an actual infection. For example, measles vaccine is made from the measles virus. Because the vaccine is a weakened or 'dead' form of the germ (virus or bacteria) that causes the disease, it doesn't cause you person to become sick, but convinces your body to make fighter cells, called antibodies, that act as a guard to fight the germs (viruses or bacteria). If they come across the same germ in the future, fighter cells sound the alarm for your body to go on the defense and attack the germs right away.

How does getting vaccinated help your community?

Each year thousands of young people and adults get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Some end up in the hospital with life-threatening conditions. By getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself and those around you.

If you decide not to be vaccinated, it is possible you can spread these diseases to children too young to be vaccinated or to people with weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer.

Who needs vaccines?

Children, teens, and even adults need vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a recommended schedule for when infants, children and teens should get vaccinations. This will provide them with protection against many illnesses. As we age, these vaccinations can wear off, so adults should plan on updating vaccinations as well. The recommendations change based on your age, whether you travel frequently, work in healthcare (where you are exposed more), and whether you are pregnant.



Many articles in this section were adapted from, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth