Vaccinations are a simple but effective way of protecting us against illnesses. Even so, it’s natural to have questions around how vaccines work to keep us well. We asked Dr Tan Choon Yean, an anchor doctor with Doctor Anywhere, to answer a few burning questions we had about vaccinations.
How long does a vaccination take to ‘work’?
“The protection that vaccines give you will develop around 7 – 14 days after you get your shot,” says Dr Tan. “Of course, this also depends on the type of vaccine that has been administered.”
Should you be travelling overseas, especially to areas with a higher incidence of certain types of diseases, your doctor may also advise you to get travel vaccines. Examples of travel vaccines include the yellow fever and meningococcal vaccine or a tetanus shot.
“Generally, you should get vaccinated 4 to 6 weeks before you travel overseas,” shares Dr Tan.
Is natural immunity better than vaccine-acquired immunity?
Natural immunity refers to the immunity you get after you’ve been infected by and recovered from a virus. While natural immunity could provide a little more protection than your vaccination, it is not better.
“Vaccination is the safest, and hence, the recommended, way to acquire immunity against a disease,” emphasises Dr Tan. This is because of the risks to your health that come with falling ill. “Acquiring natural immunity means you have to be exposed completely to the virus. This can be dangerous, especially if it leads to serious illness.”
As such, vaccinations are always the recommended way to gain immunity against preventable diseases.
Will vaccines weaken your immune system?
“Vaccinations do not weaken your immune system to other types of diseases,” shares Dr Tan. In fact, the converse is actually true — getting vaccinated could help to build your immune response to diseases instead.
For example, studies have found that going for your annual flu vaccination can help to strengthen your immune system against the influenza virus.
What should I do about vaccine side effects?
“If you’re concerned about side effects, you can speak to your doctor before you get a vaccination,” advises Dr Tan. “They’ll let you know what types of vaccinations are suitable for you.”
It’s typical to experience a few minor side effects after you’ve been vaccinated. This doesn’t mean that your body has ‘fallen ill’ with what you’ve been vaccinated with. Rather, side effects are your body’s natural reaction to the vaccination, given that the vaccine has stimulated your immune system.
“Common side effects include fever and soreness at your injection site,” shares Dr Tan. “These can usually be managed with some Over-The-Counter medication and using an ice-pack to soothe the pain.”
All in all, vaccinations provide us with a lot more good than harm (if there’s any harm at all). As far as possible, it’s important that we stay on top of our recommended vaccinations, so that we continue to stay protected against preventable diseases.
Book a vaccination appointment at any of our 9 DA clinics. Should you be unsure of what you require, you can speak to a doctor anytime on the DA app for advice.