You can still see the scar on my right shoulder, and I remember standing in line at the local Catholic Church with everyone else in my neighborhood. The year is a little fuzzy, 1974 maybe.
Polio (poliomyelitis) vaccines were being doled out to keep anyone from being stricken with the dreaded ailment that could turn a healthy, vibrant young child into, well, a crippled child. Poliomyelitis is a viral disease that affects the nerves and can cause partial or complete paralysis. I think the last cases of polio faded out to about zero in the late 1970’s thanks to the vaccine.
What exactly is a vaccine you ask? Well, a vaccine is, in simplistic terms, a weaker version of a disease that is introduced into your system, usually via an injection, that promotes you immune system into building a resistance for that particular disease. Your immune system has a memory of sorts that helps it to fight off an anti body that it recognizes.
In order for your body to be able to recognize any particular antibodies a doctor will inject a very small amount either into your vein or skin, or it may be an oral solution. It will not be enough to cause you to catch the disease but it may have side effects that are similar. Often when someone is given a flu vaccination they will have “flu-like” symptoms, (they will get the flu) but it will be a lesser level of infection and easier for your body to resist, and then afterwards your immune system will have a memory for that infection and be able to fight it off better.
The way your body fights off foreign bodies is by a specialized white blood cell called a macrophage, macrophage literally means “big eater”. These cells engulf and consume as much of the microbes as they can, they recognize the invading body by identifying an antigen that the invading microbe has that the macrophage recognizes as foreign to your body. The macrophage consumes the entire antibody except for this antigen, which it carries to a specialized organ called a lymph node.
This lymph node contains another specialized white blood cell called a lymphocyte; there are 2 types of lymphocytes, T cells and B cells. T cells, also called helper T cells, do not attack the microbe directly but will secrete a chemical signal that