ON THE FRONTLINE: The part we all play in the vaccine program’s success
As we move into the next phase of the vaccine program, it is worth reflecting on how the covid 19 vaccines work, and the role we all have as people and communities in supporting the science.
The science behind the vaccine is incredible. The vaccines work by offering a replica of a small part of the virus to our immune system, so that it can prepare its defences. Our immune system makes antibodies unique to the virus and stores these ready for exposure to the real virus. This means we are at a huge advantage should we become infected. Our immune system has the tools to kill the virus before it has a chance to take hold and cause much damage to us. Our immune systems are equally, if not more, mind blowing than the vaccine technology. They have evolved over millions of years as our main defence against infection, damage and danger in our bodies. It is the same immune system that is constantly destroying the harmful bugs we come into contact with every day. It detects cancer cells and destroys them.
It stimulates tissue healing and repair. Whilst a clever vaccine can ‘arm’ our immune system to a specific threat, we still depend on our immune system working well, and this depends on a range of other factors. Sleeping well, eating well, moving well, and managing stress. These four areas of self-care are hugely influential on how well our immune system works. What science also teaches us is that how well we look after ourselves and our immune system is hugely influenced by the conditions we find ourselves in. By this I mean our environment, the facilities and the people around us.
Our behaviour is mostly influenced by the culture and social norms of our community, and the opportunities we have. It is always tempting to blame an individual for not making the right choices, but in reality our choices are very influenced by circumstances. Humankind has learnt how to use science to empower our immune system. But to take full advantage of that we need to look after it. The solution offered by this vaccine program relies on that same magical interplay of science, self-care and community that underpins most other aspects of health and wellbeing. If we pay attention to all of them together we have the best hope for the future.