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Offered by: Richard W. Martin, M.D. – Brighton Pediatrics, P.C.

The immune system is designed to recognize pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi that do not belong in the body. Specialized immune cells present antigens (distinctive molecules from these pathogens) to B cells and helper T cells to create antibodies against the pathogen and, in some cases, create long term memory B cells to protect against future infection. Vaccines mimic these antigens to produce immunity in the same way without causing infection. Since specialized immune cells are plentiful in muscle tissue, intramuscular injection is often an effective route for immunizations. Some vaccinations are effective with just one or two doses; others require several doses a few months apart to stimulate immunity.

Some infections (e.g., smallpox and measles) create lifelong immunity and others (e.g., pertussis and influenza) only temporary immunity. The same applies to immunizations. The most effective vaccines produce long-lasting antibodies and memory B cells to rapidly boost antibody levels if needed. Live virus vaccines (e.g., measles and chicken pox) are the most effective, but other vaccinations that are not live (e.g., HPV and hepatitis B) also produce lasting immunity. However, the influenza vaccine is effective only about ½ to 2/3 of the time, partly because strains of influenza vary from one year to the next. Predicting which strains to include in the influenza vaccine for the coming year is challenging.

Attempting to develop a vaccine that would protect against all strains of influenza is an important area of research. Development of a vaccine against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is presently the highest priority. In the long term, an important goal is the development of a vaccine and antiviral medications that would be effective not only against COVID-19 but also against other novel coronaviruses that may emerge in the future.

Brighton Pediatrics sincerely thanks everyone in the community who has been sheltering at home and supporting our Medical and Emergency Response community. We have not stopped the virus yet, but because you stayed home and practiced social distancing, you have prevented a true public health catastrophe. Please continue to protect yourselves and your family as we start to open things back up. Please call our office if there is anything we can do to help you through this difficult time.

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