We recently rehomed a stray cat from a local animal rescue centre. His name is Fishfingers and he is super-cute (as you can see in the photo above)! One of the first things we’ve had to do is take him to the vet for some vaccinations. My 6-year-old was worried about him: would the cat would be okay? “What is vaccination?” she wanted to know “And why does he have to have it?”
Vaccination is a way of protecting people and animals from infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are caused by things like bacteria and viruses, which can spread between people or between animals or sometimes between people and animals.
For example, you might have heard of a disease called influenza or flu? It is caused by a family of viruses of which some infect people, some infect other mammals and some infect birds. Flu can make you feel very unwell and some types of flu can be very dangerous to certain groups of people. That’s why scientists have developed and tested a vaccine against the flu virus. You might have had the vaccine yourself or know someone who has had it?
But what does a vaccine do? Well, a vaccine is a biological medicine that is made using a weak or safe form of a disease-causing bacteria or virus. When it is given to a person or animal, it doesn’t give them the disease but it does tell their body what that bacteria or virus would look like. Then, if they ever come into contact with the bactera or virus for real, their body will recognise it and fight off the infection without getting poorly.
To find out more about how vaccines work inside your body, you might like to read the BBC Bitesize page about vaccination.
Vaccination is the word we use to describe the process of giving someone a vaccine. Often, a vaccination is given by an injection using a syringe and needle. It doesn’t usually hurt to have a vaccine although can feel a bit uncomfortable or scratchy for a moment or two and maybe a bit sore for a day or so afterwards.
So, to answer my daughter’s questions: vaccination is a way of trying to keep Fishfingers safe from infectious diseases because, if he caught those diseases, they could make him really poorly – and that wouldn’t be very nice for Fishfingers (and it would cost me a lot of money in vet bills)!