History of Vaccination

It all began with a lucky observation in the second half of the eighteenth century, when people began to notice that milkmaids, unlike everyone else in the population, miraculously escaped the ravages of smallpox disease. Smallpox survivors were easy to recognize by their hideous facial pock marks. Yet mysteriously, many milkmaids boasted a blemish-free complexion. This led to the belief they were somehow protected from the disease through catching an earlier milder version (known as cowpox) from cows. It was an Englishman, Edward Jenner, who in 1796 put this notion to the test when he inoculated a young boy – first with cowpox, then with smallpox. Jenner’s experiment was a success. The boy didn’t get sick, and so was ushered in the current era of immunization. The cowpox pustules Jenner used probably constituted the first vaccine.

How Vaccination Works

Priming the Immune System

Today there are many vaccines available against a whole range of infectious agents, and they all work in the same way. All contain a part of the microbe (usually a virus or bacterium) that causes the disease and this part is called an antigen. When you’re injected with (or you swallow) a vaccine, your body produces antibodies that bind to the antigen and neutralize the infectivity of the virus or bacteria. In other words, your body produces the same sort of immune response it would if exposed to the wild disease microbe, except you don’t get nearly as sick, if at all. The idea is that should you come into contact with the real disease-causing germ later on, your body will be able to make an immune response fast enough to stop you from becoming very ill. It should also prevent you from transmitting the infection to others who are not immunized.

What is a vaccine?

Why don’t vaccines make us sick if their major ingredient is the disease-causing agent itself? It is what is done to that agent that makes all the difference. There are three main types of vaccines and in all cases; the properties of the microbes have been changed so their potential for causing disease is greatly reduced.

  • Live (that is, infectious) attenuated agents. These are viruses or bacteria that have been modified so they are less virulent, without reducing their ability to induce a strong immune response.
  • Inactivated (non-infectious) whole agents. These are complete viruses or bacteria that have been modified so they cannot trigger disease.
  • Subunit preparations: In these, only part of the agent is used to provoke an immune response. For example, a modified protein from the organism or, in the case of bacteria with a sugar coating, all or part of the sugar molecule.

Vaccines of the future

Most vaccines available today are either injected or taken by mouth, in the form of a pill or liquid. There is an international trend to develop new vaccines in foods – with everything from bananas, and rice flour, to potatoes and peas under consideration. The idea is that the foods would be genetically altered to contain parts of a disease-causing organism. The genetically modified crops could then be grown in developing countries – overcoming the need for expensive transportation and refrigeration, as required for current vaccines. What's more, no skilled (or semi-skilled) staff would be needed to administer the vaccines. And there's evidence that they might even provoke a better immune response.

Colonia Natural Pharmacy specializes in finding those hard to find vaccines.  Our certified immunization pharmacists can administer all adult vaccinations.  We can fulfill a patient’s prescription or supply directly to physician’s offices. We have most vaccines in stock, but also have the ability to special order many vaccines usually for next day delivery.  Colonia Natural Pharmacy is also a New Jersey State Certified Yellow Fever Vaccination Center and we are listed on the CDC website (www.cdc.gov).  Let Colonia Natural Pharmacy take the worry and hassle of finding these difficult vaccines out of your hands.  Email Steve or Email Kim, our Board Certified Immunization Pharmacists. 

Click here to view our Vaccine List.

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