Getting Vaccinated? Have a Strong Immune System

Most countries are preparing their citizens for the virus vaccination. Certain situations may adversely affect the vaccination result. 

Why vaccinate?

The purpose of vaccination is to provide immunity to an infectious disease without you getting sick. Vaccines are often killed or weakened versions of the virus or bacteria, or parts of the virus or bacteria, that the body will recognise and produce antibodies. When you get a vaccine, your immune system should respond to the vaccine the same way as confronting the active real-life germ.

How should a healthy immune system respond to vaccination?

Taking the example of vaccination against virus infection, the essential steps are:

  1. Your immune system recognises the virus as being a foreign invader.
  2. It responds by making specific antibodies that bind to the infecting organism, marking it for destruction by your white blood cells. 
  3. It remembers the virus, and if re-encountered, it can quickly make more of the same antibodies to destroy the virus before it has the chance to multiply and make you sick.

However, a weak immune system negatively affects your ability to produce antibodies.

Factors that impact your immune system

1. Age

The vaccine response is diminished in the elderly because they make fewer and less active immune cells with age. Thus, their immune system cannot generate a high level of antibodies compared to a younger person.

2. Chronic stress

While some stress is normal, ongoing and, long-term stress results in a weaker immune system. 

3. Sleep deprivation

A lack of good quality sleep is associated with lower antibody production. So make sure you have a good night's rest before you go for vaccination.

4. Chronic illness

People with chronic illness have low levels of NK cells, a measure of poor immunity. 

5. People on immunosuppressant drugs

Immunosuppressant drugs like steroids, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy have weakened immune systems.

Why are vaccinated individuals still getting infected?

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an Infectious Diseases expert, explained that once you have been vaccinated and exposed to the virus, it will attempt to overcome the immune system and infect you. If your immune system is on the weak side, you will likely be infected. Depending on the strength of your immunity, you will have varying severity.

Suppose you have a robust immune system with high antibody levels. In that case, this will, in turn, block not only the first infection but even subsequent infections. New viral mutations, which seem to be more infectious, are continually occurring. To cope with these mutant strains, you need to depend on the strength of your immune system. 

Will the vaccine prevent infection with the virus?

Dr Leong elaborated that vaccines are unfortunately not 100% effective. They are likely to reduce the severity of symptoms experienced. Vaccinations change a severe illness to a moderate illness and a moderate illness to a mild illness, and a mild illness to being asymptomatic. The majority who become infected despite vaccination does not have any symptoms. The main aim of the vaccination is to prevent severe life-threatening illness and hope to keep people from requiring hospitalisation.

Does the vaccine provide permanent immunity?

Like the natural infection, the antibodies will fade with time. Studies from the lab of Professor Wang Linfa, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, demonstrated the following statistics after natural infection:

30% of people will have long-lasting antibodies, 

30% will have short-lasting antibodies, 

30% will have moderate lasting antibodies.

Of the last 10%, some do not produce any antibodies. 

Others may have delayed response producing antibodies.

Is it possible to get re-infected with the virus?

Dr Paul Tambayah, an Infectious disease expert, advised that reinfection can occur, but it is uncommon, with an incidence estimated at 1%. Reinfection is believed to be due to a weakened immune system and possibly a genetic predisposition.

Will the virus pandemic eventually be wiped out?

Most infectious disease experts believe that the virus will remain endemic, just like the common flu virus. 

The bottom line is maintaining a strong immune system is paramount at any given time. Prime your immune system to protect you.

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