Strengthening our natural defenses

The essential function of all vaccines is to teach our bodies how to fight off infections. By introducing weakened or dead infectious material to our immune systems, a vaccination gives us the chance to learn how to resist the disease without getting hurt. Then, when the big fight comes — an infection — our bodies remember how to defeat the disease before it can get a foothold.

Scientists like Dr. Poland have built on this basic premise to create more advanced and effective vaccines. Poland's research group is developing new and improved vaccines for smallpox, anthrax, rubella, measles and many more. A large part of their work involves understanding the genetic factors that affect the way our bodies respond to vaccines. They also research the use of vaccines against agents of bioterrorism — the right vaccines can prevent someone from using a disease as a weapon. Diseases (and the ways we get them) are always changing, so Dr. Poland's group is trying to help by finding new ways of advancing medical knowledge of vaccines and how they work.

Vaccination: Based on a fairly simple premise, the science of vaccination continues to evolve and advance.
Vaccination: Based on a fairly simple premise, the science of vaccination continues to evolve and advance.
Courtesy the Center for Disease Control