A lot of people have the erroneous idea that vaccines protect them from diseases. With the world on the verge of a bird flu pandemic, this is a dangerous oversimplification.
Vaccinations for both ordinary flu and bird flu are promoted with the implied premise that they're a sort of “pre-antibiotic" or magic shield.
That's NOT how they work - and the thinking that vaccinations have power in themselves can lead people to act in ways that weaken the immune protection that vaccines can provide.
Vaccinations work thanks to our acquired immune system.
See, our bodies have the miraculous capability of manufacturing biochemical weapons that can destroy any and every infection.
These weapons are called antibodies, and we can make millions of different kinds of them.
For every virus, there's an antibody.
It's sort of like we were invaded by a foreign army. We have a huge warehouse of weapons - but only one particular kind of weapon will kill the soldiers invading us. We must figure out which weapon it is - before the invaders conquer us.
The problem is finding the right antibody (out of millions) that kills our particular infection - before the virus kills us.
Since it can take one to two weeks for our bodies to find the right antibody, a fast-acting and powerful infection (such as bird flu) can and does kill many people before their immune systems can defend them.
The good news is that once we've learned which antibody kills which infection, our immune system remembers this. The next time you're invaded by the same virus, your immune system responds quickly to defend you.
By injecting you with dead viruses, vaccines force your immune system to learn to fight that particular virus. Without the risk of you dying from the infection first.
But please notice this - YOU must supply the immune system response to the vaccination.
The vaccination DOES NOT protect you from the virus. It's just a way of teaching or training your immune system how to immediately kill the virus.
Therefore, if and when your body is invaded by an actual live virus, your immune system quickly manufactures the required antibody and defeat the infection, fast.
But what if your immune system is weak?
Your response to the vaccine will be weak.
Your response to an actual infection will also be weak. Your immune system will know what antibody to produce, but may not produce it in enough quantity. Or produce it quickly enough.
When you're facing bird flu - vaccine or no vaccine - you better do everything in your power to keep your immune system strong and healthy.
c 2006 by Richard Stooker
Richard discusses how to avoid the H5N1 flu in his book How to Protect Yourself and Your Family From the H5N1 Flu - And check out his H5N1 Flu blog