How does a vaccine work?

How does a vaccine work?

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  • A dead/ weakened version of a pathogen is injected into the body and triggers the immune system to respond
  • White blood cells called lymphocytes (b-cells and t-cells) detect the virus and gather around the site of the infection
  • These lymphocytes produce specific antibodies that immobilise and clump the antigens (weakened pathogens) so that macrophages (white blood cells) can find and engulf them
  • The pathogen has been made harmless (it cannot reproduce) so it is destroyed quickly using the process of phagocytosis 
  • Memory cells will remember which antibodies work against the specific pathogen so that they will be ready to respond to further challenges by the same virus at full-strength very quickly
  • Overall, vaccines act as a 'training course' or 'preparation' for when the actual full-strength virus enters the body
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