All About Vaccines

Vaccines are harmless substances, that contain an active component (the antigen) that allows the body to fight or ward off vaccine-preventable diseases. Therefore, vaccines are tools for the prevention of infectious illnesses, not treatment. The Ministry of Health and Wellness is committed to safeguarding the health of all Jamaicans with a variety of vaccines available for both adults and children.

How does the body fight infection?

When harmful germs invade the body, they attack, multiply and cause infections. These infections cause illnesses. Your immune system (white cells and antibodies) is your body’s natural defence against harmful germs.

If your body is infected with a harmful germ for the first time, it usually takes several days for your body to fight the germs and overcome the infection.

After the infection goes away, you develop ‘immunity’ to the disease when your immune system remembers how to fight off the germ that caused the infection.

If the same type of germ invades your body again, your immune system will produce a stronger, quicker response that will protect you from infection and illness.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines are harmless substances, usually given by injection, that help your body to develop immunity to harmful germs. They mimic invading germs by causing your body to produce antibodies and germ-fighting tools without causing illness.

Vaccines prepare your body to produce a stronger, quicker immune response to invading germs the first time they try to attack your body.

Some vaccines must be given in more than one dose so that persons receiving the vaccine get the best protection.

Why should we get vaccinated?

Vaccines are very safe and effective for preventing serious infections and complications, especially in young children.

Many infections can cause severe illnesses and death. This is true even for diseases that most people consider to be mild like influenza. It is impossible to predict who will get serious infections that may cause hospitalization and death.

Routine vaccination in Jamaica has been very effective over the decades in protecting us against serious diseases that are now very rare and eliminated from our shores, like tetanus (‘lock jaw’), measles, rubella and polio.

All children under age 7 must be adequately immunized before entry to school.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness also offers:

  • Pneumococcal vaccines (PCV and PPSV) for high risk groups such as persons with sickle cell disease and HIV
  • Diphtheria-Tetanus (DT) vaccine for adults with wounds and pregnant women to prevent tetanus (lock jaw)
  • Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 vaccines for elderly with chronic illnesses (such as sickle cell, kidney and heart disease), pregnant women, health and frontline workers. Children should should be offered the Flu shot.
  • Yellow Fever vaccine for travellers to countries with this disease